You hear the terms every day—cooking and baking. Most people think of two different things when they hear baking and cooking in the same sentence. But since cooking and baking both utilize heat to make food edible, you might be confused about what sets them apart.
Curious about the difference between baking and cooking? Let’s demystify it.
What is Cooking?
Cooking is defined as “the practice or skill of preparing food by combining, mixing, and heating ingredients,” or as “food that has been prepared in a particular way.” Cooking can be done in your home’s kitchen or commercially, like at a restaurant.
To cook food generally means using natural substances and organisms, such as meat, dairy, vegetables, herbs, fungi, minerals, fruits, and so on. Ingredients like coloring, liquor, vinegar, flavoring, and sauces can also be included.
In terms of preparation, cooking is about exposing the aforementioned substances to heat so that the appearance, texture, flavor, or even the chemical composition will be altered somehow. When cooked, some ingredients could soften as fibers are broken down. Others get firm or expand or brighten.
In order to produce these outcomes, cooking can be accomplished a number of ways. The techniques someone chooses may be influenced by their cooking skill, socioeconomic status, and culture.
Here are some cooking methods:
What is Baking?
When you hear about baking, you might think of The Great British Bake Off or a bakery or even baked snacks. But generally, most people are going to imagine some kind of tasty morsel rising out from the dry heat of an oven.
And those people are not wrong.
Baking is a way of cooking that utilizes continuous dry heat. The source of the heat could be wood, coal, electricity, or gas. The constant heat is one of the main characteristics of baking. Without the constant exposure to dry heat, the chemical composition of some foods cannot change. For example, dough requires heat to darken, firm up, and get crusty.
Numerous ingredients can be baked. Pasta, muffins, cookies, pies, scones, meat and fish, vegetables, and pizza are all common foods that you need to bake to prepare.
Art vs. Science
In the cook vs bake debate, you will find that cooking is often referred to as an art while baking is called a science.
It makes sense. Cooking has few limitations these days, as we have seen with cakes that look like real life objects and vegan meat substitutes that bleed. Cooks can express themselves a number of ways, and ingredients can be easily swapped out for others while producing a satisfying result. Dishes can be varied to change up the taste and texture. Presentation also plays a role, much like artwork.
Baking is far less limitless. And, being that you are bound by the fact that dry heat effects ingredients a certain way, science comes into play. You follow the same protocol for recipes, making sure the temperature is correct. If you do not measure ingredients correctly or add too much water, that too will affect the outcome.
FAQ on Cooking vs. Baking
When we are looking at the definitions of cooking and baking, one might assume that yes, they are the same thing. But that is like saying a rectangle is always a square. Cooking is an art form, where you can tinker with the ingredients and the cooking techniques to create something. Baking, however, uses only one form of cooking to do one job: applying even temperature to cook food.
Baking is considered one of the healthiest cooking methods, but that doesn’t mean that it is better than cooking overall. There are various forms of cooking, as mentioned earlier, and none of them are better than the other, because there are so many kinds of food you can make. Some foods taste better cooked with other methods beyond baking.
Furthermore, while baking is considered healthy because you don’t need a large amount of additives, it really depends on the recipe and ingredients involved.
Final Thoughts on Cooking and Baking
So, what is the difference between cooking and baking? To simplify, cooking is the broader category of food preparation methods, while baking is one of those methods. Cooking can be done a number of ways, while baking requires the use of indirect, dry heat from an oven to prepare food for eating. You may love cooking but prefer baking the most of all if you enjoy making cakes, breads, and pastries.