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 :

enter image description here

(zucchini + tomato )

And would you cook, roast or bake a pizza with a chicken topping?

  • 1
    thekitchn.com/… discusses some differences. It's roasting when your food is solid to start with, and is brushed or coated with fat. It's baking when the food becomes solid through cooking. Baking is usually done at lower temp than roasting. Both are dry, hot-air cooking methods. You can roast on a flat pan, but baking is often done in a vessel with sides, and sometimes a lid (e.g. a casserole). Aug 27, 2015 at 23:18

4 Answers 4


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

  1. Temperature. Roughly, baking means temperatures below 400F (200C) and roasting means higher temperatures.
  2. 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.

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    I think the coated-in-hot-fat distinction sounds right. Roasting potatoes involves cutting them up, to expose some non-skin surface. Roasting vegetables involves cutting them up and spreading them out on a pan, with a light coating of oil. Aug 27, 2015 at 21:26
  • thekitchn.com/… confirms that fat-coating indicates roasting. It also says that the structure of the food is relevant: You bake a dough that becomes solid after cooking, or a casserole that sets with heat. Aug 27, 2015 at 23:02
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    I disagree with the claim about temperature: pizzas are definitely baked but a professional pizza oven is plenty hotter than 200C. It's determined solely by the presence of fat. Aug 28, 2015 at 7:28

Pizza is a bread product regardless of what topping you put on it, so you bake a pizza. (You can also cook a pizza. Cook works for pretty much anything.)

To me (British) roasting a vegetable means cutting it into chunks and spreading them out in a tin or a tray with a little oil. If it's cooked whole, or with the pieces next to each other in a dish like in the picture, I would call that baking.


I think the difference with the terms comes from the fact that meat was originally cooked over an open fire, laid on a grate or suspended by means of a spit. While we now rarely do that in our kitchens, the distinction remains -- we roast meats and we bake everything else.

Also, baking often requires a container of some kind. Interestingly, even if we put the meat in a pan and cover the meat with foil, we still might refer to the process as roasting (e.g. "pot roast").

The process of "roasting" usually calls for higher temperatures than "baking".

As to pizza, although the temperature used is more similar to that for meat, we still say "bake" probably because a pizza is a kind of pie, which we bake.

To add to the confusion, I just remembered a "baked ham"... It doesn't start as raw meat, though.

  • 2
    If you cooked vegetables on an open flame on a grill, e.g. shish kebabs, you could say to have roasted them.
    – LawrenceC
    Aug 27, 2015 at 14:31
  • Yes, that is correct. I am not sure you could roast a pie, though. Aug 27, 2015 at 15:02
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    Also more confusing: in American English we often refer to vegetables cooked in the oven as "roasted" and roasted potatoes vs. baked potatoes and roasted chicken vs. baked chicken are basically seen as different things.
    – Jake
    Aug 27, 2015 at 16:37
  • Yes, however, a baked potato is always wrapped, while roasted potatoes are cooked uncovered. I've not heard of a baked chicken, though. Aug 27, 2015 at 16:49
  • It seems that one roasts food chunks that have considerable fats to render in the cooking, and bakes everything else. This separates out pragmatically to meats vs breads. Aug 27, 2015 at 17:42

As I understand it, the difference between baking and roasting is the finish on the surface of the food you are cooking, with a secondary factor that if it is bakery, flour and yeast, then it is always baked.

When you are roasting something, you are browning it and making the skin/outside of the food crispy, while trying to leave the inside of the food moist and juicy.

When you are baking something, you are not trying to brown it. You are trying to cook it as evenly as possible throughout.

When I think of potatoes au gratin, you are browning the top of the potatoes, but it seems like baking would be a better term than roasting for that application, but its really the only exception to this logic I can think of. I can go to a chicken pot pie, which you are definitely browning the crust, but that is a dough, flour and yeast, and as such, it is always baked.

A roasted turkey leg has brown crispy skin that crunches just a bit when you bite into it, but is still moist on the inside. A baked turkey leg is white, and moist all the way through (usually covered by a variety of different ingredients).

  • There are some mistakes here. When you bake bread, you usually do want a nice golden-brown crust. The flour+yeast thing is also not the reason. Flour+yeast+water dough is almost always baked, because that's what works well for that kind of food. (Dough can also be boiled to make bagels, or fried to make doughnuts, if it's the right kind of dough.) Aug 27, 2015 at 21:34
  • Yes, there is bakery that does not require baking, but I've never heard of bakery that is roasted. I covered that in my answer. I don't understand from your comment what the "mistakes" were, That I didn't include a third ingredient of dough in my explanation? Aug 27, 2015 at 21:38
  • The first mistake is that you say when baking that you aren't trying to brown the food. In many uses of baking (e.g. bread, pizza, pies crust) you are trying to get a nice brown on the outside. The second mistake is claiming that any cooking involving flour+yeast dough is baking. (Like I said in comments, you can fry or boil such dough.) Your answer is only focusing on the kind of baking you do to a chicken casserole or something. Even then, you might want to brown the top of the sauce, even though as you say, you want the meat soft and falling off the bone all the way through. Aug 27, 2015 at 21:45
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    I suggest you read an entire answer before criticizing it. Read the fourth paragraph. Again, you are shifting the context, I was outlining the difference between baking and roasting, not trying to give a lesson in cooking. On the topic, baking or roasting, if it is a dough, you are baking it. Aug 27, 2015 at 21:59

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