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Roast vs. Bake

I know that coffee beans and meat are roasted and bread, cakes and cookies are baked. Both methods are described in the dictionary as "cooking by means of dry heat."

Is there a technical difference between these two, or is the method the same and determined only by the object to be cooked?

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  1. Interesting question. I roast something at a higher temp than I bake something (450-500 vs. 350-), And what I roast is usually (always?) a whole thing (chicken) or a roast.

    8 Replies
    1. re: bayoucook

      I agree with the higher temp but I "roast" vegetables also.

      1. re: c oliver

        Yes, and people bake chicken. To me, roasting includes a browned-fat component (there's a name for the process of caramelizing fat rather than sugar, but it's not coming to me this morning). Something that's baked doesn't have to have this, but something that's roasted does.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          I believe you're referring to the Maillard reaction.

          1. re: Bob Brooks

            a) I'm not sure Maillard reaction is the same thing, and
            b) There's a specific word for it

      2. re: bayoucook

        So you roast your pizza not bake it?? You roast biscuits too??


        1. re: Davwud

          Damn! You got me there! And I roast vegetables, too. Should've waited to reply after my second cup of coffee! ;= )

          1. re: bayoucook

            I personally don't have an answer. I suppose they're synonyms.


            1. re: bayoucook

              I hate it when I get nailed pre-coffee :)

        2. Roast, toast? Bake, schmake? I think there's really no difference. It's the attachment to different foods (bread vs. chicken) that's part of the English language that's the difference. But then, I don't know the etymology of the words.

          Upon giving etymology a thought, it occurred to me that when cooking was done at a hearth in the kitchen, meats would be roasted *in* the fireplace, and baking was done in an "oven" that was part of the chimney, *next* to the fireplace. Perhaps that's where the difference comes from...

            1. There was no problem with the terms until someone decided to "modernize" his baked fish by saying it was "roasted," and all of a sudden we had roasted this and that after it was baked in the oven. Roasted is so much tastier, as a word. It's just faux foodie-ismo.

              1. TV cooking-show veteran Maryann Esposito always says "cook" instead of "bake" but I can't recall if she says "roast". I've always wondered if it's a translation glitch, a la Lidia Bastianich's "close the fire" instead of "turn off the burner".

                1 Reply
                1. re: greygarious

                  I saw her walking down Boylston st the other day. I said ciao. She laughed.

                2. hi, i need to revive this posting / question one more time. why does my wolf oven have a separate selector for "roast" and "bake". the instructions just give a cryptic explanation of the same heating elements activating.
                  do commercial equipment have such a setting?

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: davkiang

                    I've never seen a commercial Wolf range with a roast/bake setting in a restaurant kitchen. Restaurant kitchens usually have separate convection ovens, usually stacks. The only thing I can think of is that you have a convention option in your oven for the bake mode, and the roast mode would have intermittent heat from top to bottom, or a convention roast option, as well, which, if true, is a nice thing to have.
                    The same heating elements would be activated but the fan would also be, for the convention bake mode.

                    1. re: davkiang

                      This is what you will get with your differant selector settings on the Wolf

                      Bake- heat from bottom, intermittent heat from top
                      Convection- fan on, heat from rear of oven only
                      Convection bake- fan on, heat from rear of oven, intermittent heat from bottom
                      Roast mode- intermittent heat from top and bottom
                      Broil- heat from top only
                      Convection broil- fan on, heat from top only
                      Convection roast- fan on, heat from rear, intermittent heat from top

                      1. re: RetiredChef

                        Thank you for the above post. I am just learning my new Wolf oven and was getting flummoxed by all the options. I'm moving my ribs from my pellet smoker into the oven for the texas crutch (and also so it does not get overly smokey) and could not decide on what setting to use. I think I'm going to go with Convection Roast.

                      2. re: davkiang

                        So that when the control breaks you have a hope of still functioning while (a) you are waiting for the part to arrive on back order or (b) you are saving enough money to pay for the repair.

                        I saw a Consumers Reports article which demonstrated that reliability and utility of stoves was inversely related to cost. And yes, an associate proved the proposition scientifically.

                      3. I'd guess roasting should really be baking with exposure to flame, and baking would be done without - as an example, bread or cakes would be "baked" in a clay oven, and meat would be "roasted" over a fireplace.]

                        However, these days it probably wouldn't make much difference. The mailard reaction occurs with the crust of bread, or the crispy cake crust, so 'm sure it can't be anything to do with that.

                        1. This is complete conjecture, but it seems to me that the difference is in how prepared the food is. Breads, cakes, pies, casseroles, and other stuff that requires a lot of preparation is baked. Baking also is used to refer to the whole process, everything a baker does. With chicken, for me, roast chicken means a whole bird was put in the oven with very little preparation other than maybe being oiled and seasoned. Baked chicken, for me, means something more like chicken thighs marinated in buttermilk, breaded, and oven cooked.
                          Of course, baked potatoes kind of mess this theory up.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: danieljdwyer

                            Salt roasted potatoes
                            Potatoes roasted in ashes
                            The bake/roast controversy will persist...

                            1. re: bushwickgirl

                              I think I am missing something. What's complicated about salt roasted potatoes or potatoes roasted in ashes?

                              1. re: danieljdwyer

                                Well now, if I could remember what I was thinking when I wrote that, oh, you commented about how baked potatoes messed up your theory that "baked" food has more preparation time, more steps, than "roasted" and the implication was, as I understood it, perhaps they shouldn't be called baked potatoes for that reason. That was my understanding of what you wrote, anyway. I offered some existing names for potato dishes referred to as roasted, but not a far stretch from what baked potatoes are considered to be, technique-wise, to indicate that the words roast and bake are pretty much interchangeble and there are no hard and fast rules.
                                I wasn't making the point that roasting potatoes with salt or in ashes is complicated, far from it; I was just pointing out a case of one basic technique with two different designations.