Dry heat is the secret behind broiling and baking, although each cooking method uses the heat in a slightly different way. While the two methods are similar and can cook several of the same foods, broiling and baking are not interchangeable. Most conventional ovens come with an oven for baking and built-in broiler beneath the oven.
How Broiling Works
Broiling cooks your food by exposing it to direct heat, the same way grilling works. Unlike grilling, however, the heat source is above your food rather than below it. You generally place the food in a special broiling pan, which is often already inside your oven’s broiler, and close the broiler door to allow the heat from above to beat down upon the food. Broilers reach and maintain a steady temperature of 550 degrees F. and quickly sear the exterior of the food directly beneath the heat source. A beef steak that’s 1 inch thick, for instance, requires about three minutes on each side for a well-done steak.
How Baking Works
Baking cooks your food by surrounding it with the oven’s hot air. Baking generally requires a baking pan or sheet unless you put the food directly on the oven rack, a possibility with items like pizza – as long as you don’t mind cleaning up any wayward melted cheese. Baking temperatures generally range from around 170 to 500 degrees F., depending on your oven settings, and usually requires a longer cooking time than broiling. Use a food thermometer to determine when foods are fully cooked with baking.
Broiling and baking use dry heat, which means they work best with foods that are moist. Because broiling sears the outside of the food rather than slowly cooking through to the middle, it works best with foods that are not extremely thick. Broiling works with thinner beef cuts, chicken wings, thighs and legs, boneless chicken breasts that are not as thick as the bone-in variety, pork tenderloin and fish. Certain fruits and vegetables can also cook well in a broiler. Since baking more slowly cooks through to the food’s interior, baking works for breads, cakes, cookies and other bread and dessert items. You can also bake many of the same foods you can broil, although you’ll need to increase the cooking time.
Broiling and baking are healthy methods of cooking because you don’t need to use oil, butter or other calorie-laden cooking substances. Baking can, however, reduce the nutritional value of certain foods. It reduces the vitamin B1 content of meats and cereal-based foods and reduces the vitamin C content of vegetables. Baking meat for too long can also make it tough and chewy because it shortens, toughens and squeezes the water out of the meat’s proteins. Most meats need to reach an internal temperature of about 160 degrees F. to be safe to eat, but leaving them any longer can ruin the flavor and texture.