Whether to bake or broil chicken — that is the question. Fish, beef, veggies and other foods also pose the same quandary. The difference between bake and broil methods is sometimes just a matter of taste, while other times, one will exhibit a distinct advantage.
Breaking Down 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. For dry heat cooking, heat isn't transferred to the food through water, or through vapor from the water.
Broiling is based on the same principle as grilling, except that in broiling the heat source comes from above, rather than below. Broiling can even mimic the "char" that comes from direct-flame grilling, by placing the food closer to the broiler element, and keeping it on high, according to Today's Dietician magazine. This LIVESTRONG.com recipe for Broiled Cod is a great example of just how simple broiling can be.
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 of 400 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Above that temperature, foods that aren't semi-solid, such as vegetables and meats, are usually roasted.
Read more: How to Cook Steak on a Baking Sheet
Both baking and broiling happen in the oven, but different heating elements are turned on, depending on which you choose. With most ovens, the broiler element is at the top of the oven, while the heat source for baking is at the bottom. Baking allows for a slower, longer cooking process, while broiling takes place at a higher temperature, and therefore takes only a few minutes.
Often, baking is appropriate for larger, denser types of foods, and broiling for smaller cuts of meat and shallow racks of vegetables, sliced bread, and other foods. That can help you decide whether to bake or broil chicken, for example.
Both Boast Benefits
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.
Mayo Clinic notes that baking lean beef, seafood, chicken breasts, vegetables and even fruits is better than many moist-heat methods. When done correctly, baking helps you avoid adding extra oil to a saute pan, for example. It obviously beats deep-frying, which not only requires large amounts of fat, but also usually some kind of high-carbohydrate breading. To get started, try our recipe for Baked Chicken Breast Dipped in Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Read more: How to Cook Fish Without Oil
Like baking, broiling doesn't require extra fat. The American Heart Association (AHA) points out that an additional benefit of broiling is that some of the fat in foods like red meat will drip away from the food during the broiling process. That's why a broiling pan 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.
To keep baked main-dish meals moist and flavorful without adding oils and rich sauces or gravies, the AHA recommends baking in a pan that has a lid. If you don't have this kind of cookware, aluminum foil will 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 concerns may sway you in the broil vs. bake question for certain foods. Some researchers believe that broiling and other high-heat cooking methods can potentially release carcinogens in meat. Harvard Health Publishing recommends using other cooking methods, especially for red meat.
If you are set on broiling, however, precooking your meat, fish or chicken in a microwave, may help, as can turning it frequently once it’s on the broiler. Once the food is done, cut away charred pieces if you’re concerned about carcinogens.
- National Cancer Institute: "Chemicals in Meat Cooked at High Temperatures and Cancer Risk"
- University of Minnesota: "Glossary of Cooking Terms"
- 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"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Why Harvard Experts Have a Beef With the New Meat Guidelines"