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What exactly is your definition of "baking"?

I suppose there are some things we can all agree that baking involves, right?

Like it involves an oven of some sort, but this is generally a necessary but not a sufficient condition. Because I suppose one can "bake" bread on the grill or an open-fire hearth as this old thread demonstrates http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/447683

We can also probably agree baking can involve both sweet and savory dishes. That's easy.

But does it have to involve flour of some sort? If it doesn't, does cooking a turkey or chicken in the oven count as "baking"? Or baking potatoes? Or beans? Is a person a "baker" if she baked beans?

And then there is Wiki's entry for "baking" (found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baking) which is rather unsatisfying and more of a tautological definition than anything else.

I feel like "baking" is one of those things I just know it when I see it, but can't really put words to what I know. Sort of how like how Justice Potter described "pornography" in the seminal Supreme Court case Jacobellis v. Ohio http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_know_i...

So, what say you. How do you define "baking"?

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  1. I hate the word "baking" But to me, anything with flour, is baked. So baked beans or baked potatoes are misnomers.

    5 Replies
    1. re: david t.

      Lasagna and meatloaf are also baked, as is just about any casserole.

      1. re: ferret

        To me; baking is bread, cakes, pies and other pastries. Baking a lasagna is cooking. : )

        1. re: ferret

          And mac 'n cheese and beef wellington are also things with flour, and which are baked.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            Anything that you would sell at a school bake-sale is baking. No mac'n'cheese allowed.

        2. re: david t.

          Flourless chocolate cake, cheesecake (usu. flourless), meringues, macarons, creme brulee, are all baked.

        3. Baking refers to cooking with dry heat.
          Or out in the hot sun.
          Or doing something special with brownies...... wink wink.

          3 Replies
          1. re: wyogal

            How would you define roasting as different from baking? Or would you? We bake potatoes but roast carrots. We bake a ham but roast a chicken.

              1. re: babette feasts

                We do roast potatoes - but we first coat them with fat (as we do with other roasted vegetables).

                There's a lot of over lap between bake and roast.

              1. When I started to read this, I was thinking - 'why is someone trying pin this down? Why is an exact definition needed?"

                But then I looked at the posters name. It explains everything - and nothing. :)

                1 Reply
                1. re: paulj

                  I'm just waiting for the wikimasters to show up, cut and paste, debate the minutia, and prolong this well past the point of reasonable discourse...

                2. I know it when I taste it.

                  1. Baking, to me, is a process that uses dry heat to cook an item. You can bake a ham, you can bake a pie. Its the process. This is why pretty much every recipe using an oven says "...bake at X degrees for Y minutes.
                    Roasting is baking PLUS. Where you use the heat to create a pronounced browning on the outside of the food. You roast a chicken -- the goal is to use dry heat and bake to the point where the skin is brown and crispy. You can bake potatoes, to cook them through. Or you can roast them, to get the fat they are baking in to render the outsides brown and crispy. It just depends what you are trying to achieve. Baked beans are baked, not roasted.
                    "Baked goods" is a term used colloquially to describe any flour-based product or flour-based dessert product that is done in the oven with dry heat. Brownies and breads fall in this category. And of course I am sure one can list a "baked good" that isn't flour based. Hence my use of the word "colloquialism" as in our culture, we know what we mean when we say "baked good". Custard isn't a "baked good' but is a baked dessert. Flourless chocolate torte is a baked good. I view the term "baked good" a colloquialism, where when used, we all know that the term refers to a pastry/dessert/bread vice a baked ham. if you want a loaf of bread, you go to the bakery or baked goods area, even though, technically, a baked good is any good that has been cooked with dry heat. Another example of it being used colloquially is when you say "today is a baking day" you mean you are making cookies/pies/breads, even though "baking" technically means to cook something in dry heat.
                    I think the debate comes in when we try to define the term specifically, without taking the colloquial usage into account.

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: freia

                      Reminds me of the tomato; fruit or vegetable ? question.

                        1. re: freia

                          "I view the term "baked good" a colloquialism, where when used, we all know that the term refers to a pastry/dessert/bread vice a baked ham."

                          That just goes back to my original post.

                          Baking is just something that you know when you see it, sort of like the way Justice Potter described "pornography".

                          Maybe it's one of those things that defy lexical definition.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            It doesn't defy anything. It's cooking with dry heat. Then depending on one's custom, you call certain things "baked."

                            1. re: wyogal

                              "It's cooking with dry heat."
                              That's pretty inclusive. If that was all 'baking' referred to, all kinds of techniques we don't consider 'baking' would apply - grilling, spit roasting, dry searing, dehydrating, etc. Likewise, it doesn't quite fit with things like baked beans, as most recipes call for beans to be in liquid and covered for most of the cooking duration, in a process more akin to what most people currently call 'braising' (which also used to refer to a different cooking process than the one most people know, btw).

                              In other words, I more or less agree with Ips - 'baking' as it is currently used doesn't quite defy definition (I don't think any word does that), but it does defy referencing a specific cooking process that is clearly distinguishable from other cooking processes.

                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                Not just dry heat, indirect dry heat. That excludes grilling and dry searing. I'd also argue that baking holds still, and exclude spit roasting, but baumkuchen exists http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baumkuchen. We could also probably find a minimum temperature, like above where egg proteins coagulate or above where starch does it's magic...dry, indirect heat above 170F on a non-moving food item, batter, or dough.

                                1. re: babette feasts

                                  "Not just dry heat, indirect dry heat."
                                  You'll have to keep working to exclude smoking also, then. Baked beans and similar recipes are still problematic under that definition, as 'baking' is not differentiated from 'braising.' Then there is the tricky issue of breads, which everyone agrees are baked, but professionals often cook with steam ovens.

                                  Likewise, by your definition 'baking' and 'roasting' aren't differentiated from each other, as some would claim they are. Not that I object, btw. Personally I think 'baking' and 'roasting' are now in fact used to refer to the exact same process, and people pick their term depending on a combination of custom and favoring whichever word makes their dish sound more appetizing in context.

                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                    If you want to include and exclude other things in your definition of "baking," go for it. I go with the most basic definition, then as others said, it a customary usage, or colloquialisms, that may define it further for people with that need.

                                    1. re: wyogal

                                      'Baking' is cooking with dry heat just as 'walking' is moving over land.

                                      A 'most basic' definition is not a particularly adequate one.

                                  2. re: babette feasts

                                    Not just dry heat, indirect dry heat. That excludes grilling and dry searing.

                                    I've baked bread and apple pie on a grill before. Does that not count?

                          2. Nowadays, it means more or less whatever the user of the word wants it to mean.

                            Originally, it meant cooking via convection. Typically in an oven. So what we might consider a 'roasted' rack of prime rib was in fact baked. The definitions became increasingly confused when older techniques such as roasting (originally referring to cooking slowly. mainly by radiation, further away from a fire than 'grilling') fell out of favor as ovens became ubiquitous.

                            1. Dry convection cooking of foods that aren't meat or vegetables.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: FoodPopulist

                                What of lasagna, pasta, fruits, egg dishes?

                                  1. re: FoodPopulist

                                    So a person who makes Mac N Cheese and baked ziti for a living would be considered a "baker"?

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      He is a person who bakes things for a living but not a 'baker.'

                                      In a similar way, two people who get in a fistfight over a stuffed teddy bear from Chuck E Cheese are fighting for a prize but can't be called 'prizefighters.'

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        A baker is someone who works in a bakery.

                                        1. re: FoodPopulist

                                          And a bakery is the work place of a baker ...

                                1. You generally roast food that has structure already, solid foods such as meats and vegetables. You generally bake foods that don’t have much structure until they are baked: cakes, breads, pies, casseroles, crème brulee, etc.

                                  In other words, you bake leavened items - items that “puff up” or “rise” during the cooking process. In baking, aside from just “cooking” the food, the goal is to either create steam or expand air pockets within the target food.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: madluv4tai

                                    Baked ham, baked beans, baked chicken, baked brie (which has LESS structure after baking), clam bake, baked potato... I could go on...

                                    BTW - I do think you and others who have suggested differences between baking and roasting are onto something. It's not that the words are 100% interchangeable. They each have their own connotations. I just think that looking for a single hard and fast rule to differentiate between the two is futile. Any way you make a distinction, there will be many exceptions, because the two words came from a time when roasting and baking actually were completely different processes and each word has changed meaning over time to describe modern cooking techniques instead.

                                  2. A question for others:

                                    If someone said they were cooking, say, 'a baked rack of lamb'... would you consider that incorrect? Or merely an odd way to use the term 'baked'?

                                    Likewise, imagine someone told you they were serving 'a roasted ziti casserole'... Same question: incorrect or just odd? How about 'roasted chocolate cake'?

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                      I think "baked rack of lamb" would be ok, sort of in the same vein as "baked ham", no?

                                      "Roasted ziti casserole" harkens images of roasting the ziti and then using it in a casserole prep, sort of how one roasts garlic and then puts it on pizza a la "roasted garlic pizza". So not really odd in my opinion.

                                      Now, a roasted chocolate cake *would* be odd, and probably incorrect on some level.

                                      Perhaps, at the end of the day, this is just "Chowhound logomachy"?

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        I'm thinking that, as modern usage goes, 'baking' encompasses 'roasting' but not vice versa. Like how all squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares.

                                        'Baking' refers generally to food cooked by air convection in an enclosed device (an oven usually), and ALSO to food that is traditionally cooked via that method though another method was used in that particular case to a similar result - your example of breads cooked on a grill.

                                        'Roasting,' refers more specifically to foods that could be roasted traditionally - by a fire or coals, not enclosed - but most commonly are also cooked in an oven. Anything that we normally describe as 'roasted' can also be correctly called 'baked.' Baked ham, baked chicken, baked fish, baked rib roast, etc. An exception - if a food was genuinely roasted in the old-school sense - spit roasted meats, things cooked with an open fire, roasted marshmallows, even roasted red pepper - it cannot correctly be called 'baked.'

                                        But not all things that are normally described as 'baked' can be correctly described as 'roasted.' Breads, cakes, pies, casseroles, etc - things that have no tradition of being cooked by means of radiation or open fire - come off as incorrect if described as 'roasted.'

                                        Of course this is all subject to change and local variations in language.

                                    2. I suspect some of the usage of "baked" for non-bakery items dates back to when homemakers would carry casseroles to the village bakery to cook in the oven. Cholent, beans, potatoes - all would be options.

                                      We forget that fuel was precious and meeting everyday needs took much time - communal arrangements like this were quite common.