Baking Vs Cooking – What’s The Difference?

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Baking and cooking are two common terms that you hear almost every day.

For many, the two may be synonymous since they both require edible ingredients, involve cutting, chopping, mixing, and the works, and produce delicious foods to eat as a result.

But are they actually the same? They most certainly are not!

While both baking and cooking are methods of food preparation, they differ in the way that they produce food, use equipment and tools, and emphasize precision and improvisation.

The next time someone says “I love to bake but I can’t cook”, don’t be confused. Many cooks will usually confess that they can’t bake while bakers will often come clean about their lack of cooking skills.

So, what is the difference between baking and cooking? Cooking is a broad term used to describe several different methods of making food, whereas baking is a special type of cooking that uses dry heat, particularly in the oven. Simply put, all baking is cooking but not all cooking is baking.

Keep reading for more information on what cooking and baking are and how they are different from one another.

What Is Cooking?

Raw foods, both meat and certain vegetables, not only taste bad but are also harmful to consume due to the presence of bacteria.

The invention of fire was a huge turning point for mankind since it enabled us to turn raw ingredients into food that is delicious to eat.

Cooking refers to a method of preparing food that involves heating and combining the ingredients to change their chemical composition and make them safe for consumption.

The basic principle of cooking remains the same throughout history, which is to apply heat to raw food.

However, the methods of preparation have changed over the years such as using herbs, spices, and flavorings, and using cooking utensils instead of cooking on a direct, open flame.

The main ingredients used in cooking are naturally occurring substances such as animal meat, dairy, fruit, vegetables, eggs, herbs, spices, water, and minerals.

When exposed to heat, they may change in taste, texture, appearance, and even chemical composition. Some, such as meat and vegetables, may become softer and tender while others, such as eggs, may become firmer.

Some may become brighter while others may become darker, and some may even shrink in size because of the moisture evaporating.

While cooking somewhat lessens the nutrient profile of the ingredients because of the use of heat, it makes them edible and much more flavorful.

Cooking can be accomplished in several ways with individuals using their own techniques based on their cooking skills, socioeconomic class, and culture.

Some common methods of cooking include:

  • Baking
  • Boiling
  • Braising
  • Broiling
  • Frying
  • Grilling
  • Roasting
  • Sauteing
  • Searing
  • Simmering
  • Smoking
  • Steaming

What Is Baking?

For most people, when they hear the word “baking”, their mind suddenly goes to fresh bread, moist cakes, and delicious cookies.

While they are not wrong, baking doesn’t only refer to making cakes and other bready desserts. It includes so much more!

Baking is one of the many methods of cooking that uses constant dry heat, the source of which could be wood, coal, gas, or electricity.

This continuous flow of dry heat alters the chemical composition, appearance, and flavor of ingredients, making them firmer, darker, softer, bigger, and flatter, depending on the recipe.

Baking may be used to prepare several foods such as bread, cakes, pizzas, muffins, cookies, lasagnas, pies, scones, meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, and so much more.

Baking Vs Cooking: What Are The Differences?

In the baking vs cooking debate, there are a few major differences that set these two methods apart. Let’s look at them in detail:

Art Vs Science

Most people refer to cooking as an art form whereas baking is more of a science. This is so because when it comes to cooking, you are encouraged to be creative and improvise. 

In fact, the ability to improvise and cook food without following a recipe is what distinguishes a master chef from an amateur one.

Baking, on the other hand, has a certain set of rules that need to be followed. It is more akin to science since it requires accuracy and extreme precision.

The slightest changes in time, temperature, quantities, and humidity can lead to drastic changes, which are, more often than not, undesirable ones.

Products And Ingredients

Baking is one of the many ways of cooking where you put something in the oven to bake it, including pasta, meat, vegetables, bread, cakes, desserts, and so on.

When most people think of baking, their mind goes to rising dough or batter in the oven that comes out as delicious treats once ready, and they are not wrong.

Some common baked goods include cake, bread, cookies, pies, pastries, and muffins, all of which use leavening agents to create air pockets within the dough or batter.

Appliances, Tools, And Equipment

The appliances, tools, and equipment used for cooking and baking may vary considerably.

You can expect to find pans, pots, knives, tongs, a grill, a stove, and so much more in a chef’s kitchen.

For a baker, you are most likely going to find a stand or hand mixer, measuring cups, a whisk, and of course, an oven.

This list isn’t definite and varies depending on what the chef or baker is making and specializes in. Cooking and baking techniques and ingredients vary widely across the world with every region of every country having its distinctive cuisine. 

For instance, a baker who makes cakes will need several cake pans, whereas one making bread would require proofing baskets and rolling pins, among other things.

History And Popularity

According to experts, cooking predates baking by a huge margin. Our ancestors have been cooking for around 2 million years whereas baking is relatively new with the oldest recorded oven dating back to only 6500 years ago.

The ancient Egyptians were also pioneers in baking and are often credited as being the first recorded civilization to invent enclosed ovens and use yeast to make bread.

Baking eventually spread across the continent to Europe, making bread a staple in most European and American cuisines. It was introduced in Japan in the 16th century, after which it spread across Asia.

Since cooking is practiced all over the world and is a form of sustenance, it is easier to find the right ingredients, appliances, and equipment for it anywhere in the world.

However, since baking is a subset of cooking and may also be considered a niche, it may often be difficult to find the right tools and ingredients, especially in areas where baking is not as widespread.

Baking Vs Cooking: Comparison Chart

Here is a summary of all the differences between baking and cooking!

Cooking is a broad term that refers to all the methods of making food.Baking is a subset and specialized type of cooking that uses dry heat to make food, particularly in an oven.
Cooking is considered a form of art because it allows improvisation and to change the recipe according to your preference.Baking is considered a science because it requires precision and accuracy when it comes to the ingredients and their measurements.
Cooking can be done on an open fire or a stove or grill and uses mediums such as oil and water to provide heat to the uncooked meat and vegetables.Baking uses dry, indirect heat, particularly in an oven, to prepare food.
Cooking predates baking to around 2 million years and is a much older form of making food.Baking is a relatively new method dating back to around only 6500 years.
Cooking is more popular and practiced all around the world in various forms.Baking is more of a niche and is common in only certain parts of the world.
Cooking is considered a less healthy method of preparing food.Baking is considered a much quicker and healthier method of preparing food.
Cooking utilizes tools and equipment such as pans, pots, knives, tongs, a grill, a stove, and even an oven.Baking utilizes tools and equipment such as measuring cups, a whisk, a stand or hand mixer, and of course, an oven.

Related Questions

Now that we’ve discussed all the differences between baking and cooking, here are a few additional questions we thought you might have!

Is baking better than cooking?

While baking is considered one of the healthiest cooking methods, it all comes down to the recipe and the ingredients involved.

Excessive amounts of fat, sugar, and sodium are harmful to health, whether you cook it or bake it. That being said, baking generally requires less fat such as oil, making it better than cooking in that regard.

However, when you are making desserts such as cakes, cupcakes, brownies, and cookies, this is not the case since the recipe usually calls for excessive amounts of sugar and butter, both of which are harmful if used in generous amounts.

When it comes to which tastes better, there are various forms of cooking, with baking being one of them, and none of them is better than the other. Some foods taste better when cooked while others taste better when baked.

What is the difference between roasting and baking in an oven?

While roasting and baking are both common methods of cooking utilizing an oven, they are different in several ways.

The main difference between the two is that while roasting involves food that is already solid, such as meats, baking involves using heat to solidify foods from a liquid batter, such as dough.

They also use different temperatures to achieve their final result, with roasting typically using a higher temperature of around 400°F or more to cook meats and vegetables.

Baking, on the other hand, uses lower temperatures to slowly cook and solidify liquid batters.

Additionally, roasting requires you to add fats such as oil or butter on the surface of the foods that you roast, whereas in baking, you only use the fat that has already been incorporated in the mixture.

To help you understand, you will roast foods like briskets, potatoes, and asparagus, and bake foods like bread, cakes, muffins, and cookies.

What is the difference between baking and air frying?

Air frying is one of the newest and most popular methods of cooking these days that has taken the culinary world by storm.

You get to enjoy your favorite fried foods such as French fries and fried chicken without any unnecessary extra oil.

But if you have an oven, do you need an air fryer? Are they different from one another? If yes, how?

Conventional ovens work by producing heat from a gas or electric element, which is slowly dispersed throughout the oven. Convection ovens work in the same way, but the time it takes for the air to disperse is sped up by the use of a fan.

While air fryers also use a similar fan to disperse the heat, they use rapid air technology to produce it instead of using an element, allowing the air fryer to heat up more quickly.

In addition to that, an air fryer is much smaller than an oven, making it not only more convenient and portable but also allowing the heat to circulate more evenly, resulting in crisper food.

Will you learn to bake in a cooking class?

As mentioned earlier, baking is one of the many forms of cooking but you may not learn much about it in a class dedicated to cooking.

Cooking classes generally cover a wide array of topics and techniques such as boiling, frying, sautéing, and roasting, and the specific techniques you learn will depend on your instructor and the areas covered by them.

For instance, in a class for making Spaghetti Bolognese, you will likely learn how to boil pasta, chop the meat and onions, simmer the sauce, and mix the ingredients.

However, for dishes like casserole or lasagna that require baking skills, you will learn those in your cooking class.

The bottom line is that if you take a short-term cooking class, chances are that you may not learn how to bake.

If it is a longer course, you may learn the basics. But if you wish to learn how to bake, we suggest you sign up for a class dedicated to baking.

What is the best method for cooking vegetables?

Although it is entirely up to you how you cook your vegetables based on your skills, personal preference, and need for a particular recipe, two of the best ways to cook vegetables are steaming and sautéing.

Steaming is one of the healthiest ways to cook your vegetables since it maintains their nutritional content and adds minimal additives.

Cooking vegetables in water such as in boiling and blanching results in nicely cooked, soft vegetables but results in a loss of vital nutrients, making steaming a much better option.

If you want your vegetables to be more flavorful, you can sauté them using a small amount of fat, such as oil or butter.

It not only adds a nice taste to the otherwise bland vegetables but adding a bit of oil or butter to the vegetables prior to sautéing can also help your body break down fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamin D.

We’re slaves to our taste buds and there’s a reason why we’re so attracted to delicious foods. Adding the right amount of fat and seasoning will enhance the flavor of your vegetables and make it easy for you to consume them more!

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