Baking. Roasting. Roasting. Baking. Hmm…When I bake a cake I preheat the oven, put my filled caked pans inside, close the door and wait for the magic to happen. When I roast a chicken I preheat the oven, close the door and, well, wait for the magic to happen. The terms are often used interchangeably, so how’s a cook to know what the difference is?
In today’s kitchens, baking and roasting are pretty much the same. They both refer to cooking food by placing it in a closed environment (think oven) and cooking it by surrounding it with hot, dry air. The difference is based on the foods that are being cooked.
Baking is typically used when referring to pastries, vegetables and fish, while roasting is often reserved for meat and poultry. Back in the day, roasting was all about cooking food, usually meat, directly over an open flame, while the food was rotated for even browning. Today, most kitchens lack an open spit and foods are roasted by placing them in the oven at a relatively high temperature, again for even browning.
Now that I’ve given you the rule, here are a few exceptions. I’ve enjoyed baked chicken, roasted potatoes and baked ham…go figure.