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 a built-in broiler space in the oven.
The Difference Between Broiling and Baking
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.
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So how does baking differ from broiling? 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 550 degrees Fahrenheit 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.
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The Pros and Cons of Broil vs. Bake
Broiling and baking are healthy methods of cooking because you don't need to use oil, butter or other calorie-laden cooking aids. Heating foods, whether through baking, broiling or other methods, can alter the nutritional profile of different foods. In some cases, it can increase the nutrient profile.
For instance, cooking tomatoes increases the vitamin C content and cooking vegetables can increase the amount of antioxidants. In other cases, adding heat can reduce the nutritional value of certain foods — different methods of cooking broccoli reduced nutritional compounds at different rates and the same is true for zinc in a variety of vegetables. Overall, eating these healthy foods outweighs any decrease in nutrients.
Additionally, 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 145 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit to be safe to eat, but leaving them any longer can alter the flavor and texture.
The Best Foods to Broil and Bake
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.
Other Common Types of Dry-Heat Cooking Methods
Dry heat cooking means using direct or indirect heat from a source that is above or below the food. Here are a few other forms of dry-heat cooking methods:
Food is cooked uncovered with dry heat in the oven. The food is surrounded by hot air, usually between temperatures of 325° to 425°F.
This method allows for food to cook quickly and requires a small amount of fat. It's typically done in a frying pan or wok and requires constant stirring so the food browns evenly and does not burn.
Searing is most popular with meats and fish. This method is done a high heat and creates a beautifully cooked exterior while locking in flavor and taste.
Grilling is done quickly and at high temps. It's cooked on a metal grate and over an open flame. The food can become charred which adds flavor. Although not conclusive in humans, some animal studies have shown that certain compounds that may cause cancer are produced when cooking meats at high temps. For those that are concerned, it's recommended they remove charred pieces of meat and to constantly flip the meat.
Moist Heat Cooking Methods
The moist heat cooking techniques surround the food by liquid or steam. Moist heat cooking requires lower temperatures, ranging between 140 and 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
Blanching is similar to boiling in that food is submerged in boiling water but is only cooked for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. This works well with fruits and vegetables when you want to retain their vibrant color.
This method falls in between blanching and boiling. It involves cooking the food in boiling water longer than blanching but not cooking fully as you would with boiling.
Steaming involves cooking food over the wet hot air from boiling water but not in the water as you do with boiling.
Food is placed in a vacuum sealed packaged and cooked in a hot water bath held at 190 degrees Fahrenheit.
This is another low-heat method of cooking. Foods are submerged in liquid, just below boiling.
This method includes cooking food fully submerged in water that is bubbling but not fully boiling.
This method involves a mix of dry and moist heat cooking. It's done by browning first and then simmering (see above) in a small amount of liquid in a covered pot.
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