Should You Broil or Bake Your Food?
Baking and broiling are cooking techniques that employ the dry heat of an oven.
Both are considered healthy ways to cook and often used interchangeably with other cooking methods, such as roasting and toasting. Yet, each yields different results and works best on specific types of foods.
This article examines the difference between broiling and baking, as well as which foods are better suited for each method.
What is the difference between broiling and baking?
Both broiling and baking use the dry heat of an oven to cook foods, although they do so in slightly different ways, yielding different results.
Baking is a cooking method that surrounds foods with hot air to cook them indirectly. The term is typically reserved for foods without a stable structure that solidifies during the cooking process, such as cakes, bread, and muffins.
Foods are typically baked on the middle rack of the oven at temperatures up to 375℉ (190℃), which slowly cooks the inside of the food without burning its surface.
Broiling uses direct oven heat to quickly cook solid foods, such as meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables, at temperatures around 550℉ (289℃).
Foods must be placed close to the broiler for the heat to successfully reach and cook them. Depending on your oven, this may be either the top or bottom rack.
Broiling sears the surface of food and works best for cooking thin foods. This method can also be used to add texture to the outside of foods that have already been cooked using another method like baking.
Both baking and broiling use dry heat to cook foods. Baking makes use of indirect heat at lower temperatures, while broiling relies on direct heat at higher temperatures.
How do they differ from roasting and toasting?
Baking and boiling are often used interchangeably with roasting and toasting. However, there are slight distinctions between each of these cooking methods.
Roasting is similar to baking in that it cooks food by surrounding it with hot air.
That said, roasting is typically reserved for foods that have a solid structure before cooking — like meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables — and involves slightly higher temperatures than baking.
Moreover, foods typically remain uncovered during roasting, while they may be covered during baking.
Toasting is used to brown the outer surface of foods that don’t otherwise require cooking, such as baked bread or raw nuts.
You can toast foods by briefly placing them under a preheated broiler in the oven or exposing them to lower heat for a longer period. For instance, you can toast nuts by placing them on the middle rack of an oven set to low cooking temperature.
Roasting resembles baking, but it involves higher temperatures and is used for foods that have a solid structure before cooking. Meanwhile, toasting is used to brown foods that don’t otherwise need to be cooked.
Health benefits of baking or broiling
Both broiling and baking are considered healthy cooking methods.
Baking is a great way to minimize the loss of nutrients that occurs during cooking. For instance, up to 85% of the omega-3 content of tuna is lost during frying, while only minimal losses occur during baking.
Similarly, certain vitamins and minerals appear to degrade to a slightly less extent during baking compared with other cooking methods (3).
Moreover, neither broiling or baking requires you to add oil during cooking, reducing the total fat content of your meal.
Not adding fat to foods before cooking also helps reduce the formation of aldehydes. These toxic substances, which form when oil is heated at high temperatures, may increase the risk of cancer and other diseases.
However, while broiling limits the formation of aldehydes, it may give rise to potentially carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
PAHs form when fat from foods touch a hot surface. Therefore, promptly removing meat drippings, cutting excess fat from meats before broiling, and avoiding oil-based marinades are good ways to limit PAH development.
Baking retains the nutrient content of foods well, while both baking and broiling don’t require much added fat during cooking. Trim the fat from meat, limit oil-based marinades, and remove drippings to keep harmful PAHs from developing.
Which method is best?
Both baking and broiling use dry heat to cook foods, which means they work best with naturally moist foods.
Foods that are best baked
Baking allows the interior of otherwise liquid or semi-liquid food to solidify while the exterior slowly browns.
That’s why this cooking method works well for baked goods like bread, cakes, cookies, muffins, and croissants.
Baking is also great for cooking one-pot meals, including casseroles, quiches, pot pie, enchiladas, lasagna, and stuffed vegetables.
Foods that are best broiled
Broiling is a convenient alternative to grilling on a barbecue. It cooks foods quickly and can be used to char and caramelize them, providing a distinct flavor and texture. Broiling works best on:
- Thin cuts of meat: typically cuts that are less than 1.5 inches (4 cm) thick, including rib eye, tenderloin, or T-bone steak, ground meat patties, meat kabobs, lamb chops, and halved boneless chicken or turkey breasts
- Fish fillets and seafood: swordfish, tilapia, salmon, tuna, scallops, shrimp
- Tender fruit: bananas, peaches, grapefruit, pineapple, mango
- Some vegetables: pepper strips, tomato halves, onion wedges, summer squash slices, asparagus
Broiling certain foods may create a significant amount of smoke. To prevent this, trim excess fat from meats beforehand.
Also, pay close attention to your foods throughout the cooking process and flip them halfway to prevent them from burning.
Baking is best used on liquid and semi-solid foods, such as quiches, casseroles, and cake, muffin, or bread batter. Broiling works best for thin cuts of meat, fish, or seafood, as well as tender fruit and thin vegetable strips.
The bottom line
Baking and broiling are cooking techniques that use the dry heat of an oven.
Baking is best used for foods with a liquid or semi-solid structure that needs to solidify during the cooking process, while broiling is best used to quickly cook thin pieces of food.
Both cooking techniques require only small amounts of added fats and minimize the formation of toxic substances compared with frying, making them great options for creating nutritious, healthy meals.
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