Once you pass the first hurdle of cooking — aka, deciding what you want to eat — the next challenge is determining how you want to cook food.
If you're set on the oven, you then have to decide whether you want to bake or broil. The difference between these two cooking methods is often just a matter of preference — both are considered healthy options.
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There are situations, though, where baking provides a distinct advantage over broiling — or the reverse.
Broil vs. Bake
Both baking and broiling are dry heat methods as opposed to moist-heat methods that use water, such as steaming, poaching and boiling, according to the American Meat Science Association.
While both cooking methods take place in the oven, different heating elements are turned on, depending on which you choose. With most ovens, the broiler element is at the top of the oven. Gas-powered ovens may have a separate compartment for broiling, typically located below the oven.
Baking allows for a slower, longer cooking process, while broiling takes place at a higher temperature, and therefore takes only a few minutes.
What Is Broiling?
Broiling is based on the same principle as grilling, except that, in broiling, the heat source comes from above rather than below. The heat source for broiling is those red-hot coils in your oven.
Broil is a high-heat method of cooking food — the broiler setting on your oven generally has a temperature between 500 and 550 degrees Fahrenheit, according to appliance maker Maytag.
Because the temperature is so high, food cooks fast. Broiling can also lead to a crust or char-like effect on foods, just as cooking on a grill does, according to the California Department of Social Services. Plus, broiling won't dry out meat.
What's more, broiling food can help you cut down on calories: Broiling allows fat to drip away, per the Mayo Clinic.
What Is Baking?
Baking is done in the oven, often to both cook and solidify foods like savory casserole mixes, bread dough and sweet desserts. Most baked food is cooked at a temperature below 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Above that temperature, foods that aren't semi-solid, such as vegetables and meats, are usually roasted.
Both Baking and Broiling Have Their Advantages
When nutritionists list the healthier types of cooking methods, baking and broiling both make the cut. That doesn't mean that every baked or broiled food will be low in calories and fat and high in fiber and vitamins, but it does mean that the cooking methods themselves don't call for ingredients that pile on fat and calories.
Dry cooking methods also allow you to retain more of the nutrients of vegetables compared to boiling, according to The Ohio State University.
Baking is most appropriate for larger, denser types of foods, and broiling is ideal for smaller cuts of meat and shallow racks of vegetables, sliced bread and other foods.
Health Benefits of Baking
Baking lean beef, seafood, chicken breasts, vegetables and even fruits is better than many moist-heat methods, according to the Mayo Clinic. When done correctly, baking helps you avoid adding extra oil to a saute pan, for example.
Baking is obviously better than deep-frying, which not only requires large amounts of fat but also usually some kind of high-refined-carb breading.
To keep baked main-dish meals moist and flavorful without adding oils and rich sauces or gravies, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends baking in a pan that has a lid (like this oval roaster: $54.99, Amazon.com). Using aluminum foil as a lid will also do.
Put a bit of extra liquid at the bottom of the pan, so that the covered food cooks in the steam of this liquid. Water, red wine, white wine, broth, stock, vegetable juice or even fruit juice can serve as the liquid, depending on which flavor notes you're attempting to capture.
Health Benefits of Broiling
Like baking, broiling doesn't require extra fat.
Plus, some of the fat in foods like red meat will drip away from the food during the broiling process, according to the AHA.
That's why a broiling pan (like this GE pan: $24.99, Amazon.com) is an essential tool for the health-conscious cook. This two-part shallow pan has a perforated top so that the fat drips into the tray underneath.
Health concerns may sway you in the broil vs. bake question for certain foods.
Broiling, grilling and other high-heat cooking methods can cause the release of carcinogens in meat, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). These carcinogens are linked to cancer in animal studies, not human studies, per the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Marinating meat beforehand may cut down these risks, as well as pre-cooking it to reduce the time it's exposed to high head, per AICR. Turning the meat frequently as well as removing charred pieces also reducing your exposure to potential carcinogens, according to the NIC.
Is It Better to Bake or Broil?
Ultimately, it's up to you and the dish you're making.
Broiling is a speedier method to cook food than broiling. With meat, it's ideal for tender cuts, per the American Meat Association. It's also ideal for thin cuts of meat and fish, according to the AHA.
Baking works well for casseroles and baked goods, which are foods that benefit from heating up slowly while the outside browns. Choose this option for liquid or semi-liquid foods that'll need to solidify.
The main difference between baking and broiling is the temperature. It’s far higher for broiling, which means that the cook time is lower. Both options rely on dry heat and are considered healthy because you can skip adding fat.
- National Cancer Institute: "Chemicals in Meat Cooked at High Temperatures and Cancer Risk"
- Today's Dietitian: "How Cooking Techniques Affect the Nutritional Qualities of Food"
- Mayo Clinic: "Healthy-Cooking Techniques Boost Flavor and Cut Calories"
- American Heart Association: "Healthier Preparation Methods for Cooking"
- American Meat Association: "Methods of Cooking Meat"
- Maytag: "How to Broil in the Oven for Fast Flavor"
- EatFresh: "Broiling cooks meat quickly without drying it out."
- The Ohio State University: "Steam, roast vegetables to retain nutrients"
- American Institute for Cancer Research: "Five Steps for Cancer-Safe Grilling"