101: Roasting vs. Baking

Potatoes can definitely be baked or roasted, in this case I'd say baked (and then finished with the broiler)

I love my oven. I use it regularly, for everything from potatoes and broccoli to cookies. But I have NO IDEA what the difference is between roasting and baking. So I’ve done some research….and I’m passing it along to you!

From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

  • roast: to cook by exposing to dry heat (as in an oven or before a fire) or by surrounding with hot embers, sand, or stones<roast a potato in ashes>I love my oven. I use it regularly, for everything from potatoes and broccoli to cookies. But I have NO IDEA what the difference is between roasting and baking.
  • bake: to cook (as food) by dry heat especially in an oven

Ok….no help so far….

Well, generally when I read the term “bake” I’m doing something with batter (cakes, cookies, bread) and when I’m roasting, the food is meat or veggie. From what I read on the internet, most posts agree with this distinction. And I’m certainly not the only one wondering about this verbal distinction. One article on the issue was on a blog geared towards word questions.

To really just complicate the conversation, I cooked these both at the same time in the oven, but I'd call the salmon* baked and the brussel sprouts roasted. Go figure.

A quick look through The World Encyclopedia of Cooking Ingredients just backs up everything else. Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook doesn’t even mention roasting in the cooking methods section. So what’s the answer? There isn’t much difference. The term baking seems mostly used when the item is consistent throughout, whereas roasting seems to result in a “crust” or outside that has a different flavor/texture from the inside.

I’m going to personally put this debate to rest, and just not worry about it. I’m going to bake things with flour, roast meat/fish, and do both to veggies, depending on which word sounds better (and to all of those language police out there, deal with it!).

Speaking of roasted veggies….take almost any veggie, cut it into even sized pieces (to cook evenly), toss lightly with olive oil (or spray it on) and add whatever seasoning you like (play around, involve the kids), preheat the oven to 400 or 450 (again, play around with it), spread the veggies evenly on a baking sheet (ok, now we’re roasting on a baking sheet….so much for consistency!) and cook for about 20-25 minutes, or until tender and lightly browned. Adding some garlic in there never hurts!

* If you’re wondering what’s on my salmon, it’s a combo Greek yogurt and a very tasty, grainy mustard, with a dash of balsamic vinegar. I STRONGLY recommend trying this recipe.

Side note: BROILING – also in the oven, also with dry heat, but this time the heat comes straight from one area and the food is a specific distance – the goal is usually to brown the top.

 

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