Bake and Roast

In most cases, baking and roasting are identical cooking methods: a dry heat technique, typically in an oven. The distinction between the two has more to do with the type of food being cooked.

The difference is:

We call it baking when heat gives the food structure that it did not have prior to going in the oven. For example a cake goes into the oven as a thick liquid and comes out as a airy solid. Breads are similar and even casseroles go from loose and spillable to a more unified form. Baking is also a more involved process. Cake batter has to be mixed first, casseroles need to be assembled...there's far more to it than popping something in the oven.

And we call it roasting when the food starts out as a solid item and we are cooking it to make it flavorful and/or digestible, such as with a chicken or a carrot. Roasting is the oldest cooking technique but since it predates ovens, it would have been accomplished over or near an open fire. And so another way to look at it is this- if a food can be skewered on a spit and cooked over and open fire, it is roasting. A potato, sure; lasagna, not so much. And if baking is the involved side of this coin, roasting is really not. To roast anything, just apply a light coating of oil to a food, season it, place it in a low walled pan, and put it in a hot oven until it is done. There are finer points of course, but basically that's it!

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