What’s the difference between baking and roasting? That’s a question you probably haven’t pondered too often (if at all). But the answer is actually a pretty simple and cool piece of cooking trivia.
Let’s start with how they’re similar. They’re both cooking methods that use hot, dry air to cook. In fact, they’re actually exactly the same in what’s happening in the oven. It’s what happens in the food that determines whether you’re baking or roasting.
If you’re cooking something that doesn’t have a fully solid structure until it’s cooked—like bread, brownies, or cakes—you’re baking. Basically, that’s what you’re doing if what you’re cooking rises or puffs up as it cooks.
If you’re cooking something that already has a solid structure—like vegetables or meats—you’re roasting. An important aspect of roasting is caramelization.
Roasting typically happens at a higher temperature than baking does, and this higher temperature creates caramelization on the outside of your food. When we say caramelization, we mean that golden brown crust you find all around the outside of a rotisserie chicken, for example.
And that’s it! Feel free to use this new knowledge to fuel small talk at your next dinner party!