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"What is the difference between baking and roasting?"

Dear Anne and Sue,

Why is it that when we put a cake in the oven it is called baking and when a chicken is put in the same oven it is called roasting?

Thanking you,



Still have more questions? You'll find more answers in our archived monthly feature articles by the Inquisitive Cooks.

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Dear Benaifer,

The term baking refers primarily to the cooking of flour-based foods in which the heat of an oven sets their structures. Thus breads, cakes, muffins, and loaves are all cooked by exposing them to particular temperatures that firm each specific dough to the center, with just the right degree of browning on the outside.

Roasting traditionally meant cooking a food by exposing it to radiant heat in the open. It was a term usually applied to meat as it turned on a spit in front of a fire. In contemporary cooking, we’ve expanded the meaning of the term to include vegetables and fish. An open flame, however, is now often an outdoor grill or barbecue.

The term roasting is also now used to refer to tender meats, fish, or vegetables cooked in the enclosed space of an oven. Roasting in an oven generally refers to a dry-heat method of cooking without water-based liquids. Meats, vegetables, or fish may be basted with a marinade, some form of oil, or meat drippings.

In contrast, the terms pot roasting and braising indicate oven-cooking in a closed vessel with some added broth or liquid. These techniques are often used when cooking tougher cuts of meat because moisture helps dissolve their more plentiful connective tissues, making them more flavorful and tender. Vegetables are often included in these dishes.

Thanks for your question. We’re delighted you are participating in the site!

Good wishes,
Anne & Sue



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