Roasting is typically done at a higher heat, and baking at a lower heat (this is definitely not always the case--consider the higher temp at which cornbread and biscuits are baked--425 or so--and then the opposite--slow-roasting meats at super-low temps). But generally, roasting is done to meats or perhaps chunks of veg or fruits, and baking is done to...well...baked goods (cakes, pies, etc.).
Both methods, however, are considered to be "dry heat" methods of cooking.
Gotta agree with petitbleu. Matter of fact, my dictionary defines "roast" as "to bake (meat or other food) uncovered, especially in an oven." The only difference my dictionary really gives is that roasting "can enhance flavor through caramelization and Maillard browning on the surface of the food." The definition for baking does not include that.
amysarah is a trusted home cook.
I think it's mainly semantics at this point, even if there was a temp-based distinction originally. As already mentioned, generally 'roasting' suggests higher temps, baking maybe more commonly cakes, cookies, etc. - but there are so many exceptions (baked potatoes, etc.) I also think the term 'roasting' just trends more these days - the popularity of 'roast vegetables' and so on - and is perhaps a bit generational - my mother would make 'roast beef' and 'roast' a whole chicken, but if she were referring to, e.g., fish, it would have been 'baked fish.' I think it had more to do with common usage than a specific distinction - at least for home (as opposed to professional) cooking.
trampledbygeese is a trusted home cook.
The difference in the two words is obvious when you look at the history of cooking.
Roughly 200 years ago there use to be a HUGE difference between the words Roast and Bake. Roasting was always done over an open flame, and usually on a spit, almost always to meat. Whereas to bake was done in an oven, where the oven would be made of stone, cob, clay or some other heat retaining material. The fire would be build inside the oven to heat it up, then completely removed. The food to be baked would then be sealed inside the hot oven until cooked through.
Since the 19th Century, with the invention and acceptance of the iron cook stove, one could now cook meat in the oven, and not directly over the open flame. There was a small advertisement/propaganda campaign so that people would accept the coal/wood cooker instead of an open fire in the house. During this time the words Bake and Roast started to blend together.
Now, even though we cook almost exclusively without fire, we still have the left over difference between roast (usually used with meat) and bake (usually for casseroles, sweet things, breads).
The book, Consider the Fork is a really good source for more info. on this.
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