What I learned from articles I read from cooking websites on the internet is that the word to roast is associated more with meat and vegetables, whereas the word bake goes with bread, cake, cookies and muffins.
When I hear the word roast, a turkey or chicken comes to my mind but in case of word bake, I imagine a pound cake; but I don’t think that these explanations cover everything or most of dishes we cook in an oven.
I think what causes confusion is when we cook vegatables as a main dish and not as a side food. I mean when we cook poultry in oven, we are likely to roast it or when we bake a muffin we definitely bake it.
But I’d like to ask how about vegetable-only dishes ? E.g. in the picture below :
(zucchini + tomato )
And would you cook, roast or bake a pizza with a chicken topping?
Note: the following is based on UK terminology. If the USA uses the words differently, I don’t know about that.
Both Roasting and baking cook the food with “dry heat”, i.e. the food is heated by hot air in an oven, or by direct heat radiation from an open fire in traditional roasting.
The basic differences are
- Temperature. Roughly, baking means temperatures below 400F (200C)
and roasting means higher temperatures.
- For roasting, the surface of the food must become coated with fat or oil while being cooked. The fat is caramelized (browned) by the high temperature. The fat can come from the food itself when roasting meat, or oil-free vegetables like potatoes can be coated with fat or oil before roasting.
So, you can bake a potato simply by heating a raw potato for the correct amount of time, or you can or roast it by coating it with fat or oil before heating it (to a higher temperature than for baking). The end products will look and taste different from each other.
The surface of the food must be in open to the air for roasting. You can bake a potato wrapped in foil (to stop it becoming too dry) but you can’t roast it wrapped in foil. You would just end up with a baked potato soaked in fat.
Roasting a cake or bread is logically impossible, because you have to put the raw dough in a container to hold it in the right shape, and therefore most of the surface of the cake will never be in contact with the air.