Baking vs Cooking: What’s The Difference?

Baking and cooking are two methods of food preparation. While the objective of the two may be the same – that is, to make tasty food, the two differ in the food that they produce, the appliance, tools, and equipment that they require in the process, their emphasis on precision and improvisation, and how popular they are in different places in the world.

My name is Angie, I’m a food enthusiast and a self-taught baker with 10+ years of experience experimenting with food and making deliciousness happen in the kitchen. I know all about the art of food making and I enjoy simplifying this process, making it more accessible to all! 

In this article, I will explain what cooking and baking is, show you the main differences between the two, and answer any further questions you may have on the topic. 

Keep reading to learn more!

What is Cooking?

Cooking refers to the process of preparing food to make ingredients safe for consumption and making them more palatable. This process involves heating, mixing, and combining ingredients, all of which changes the chemical composition of the food. 

There are three main ways the heat is transferred in order to cook food: radiation, convection, and conduction. You can learn more from this article.

What is Baking?

Baking falls under the broad umbrella term of cooking. It is a specific type of cooking where dry heat is exposed to food in an enclosed space, typically an oven. 

As with cooking, this process causes the food to be chemically and physically transformed, changing in color, size, and texture. 

A Little Bit of History

According to Phylogenetic experts, it is suggested that our human ancestors have been cooking since 1.8 – 2.3 million years ago. In comparison, baking is a relatively new innovation with the oldest recorded oven dating back to only 6500 years ago. 

Baking vs Cooking: The Main Differences

Below are the four main differences between baking and cooking, listed and explained.

Difference #1: Product

Baking is one way of cooking. By putting something, anything, in the oven, you are technically baking that item. This can include pasta, vegetables, meat, seafood and etc. 

That said, when most people think of baking, they are not thinking about savory dishes but rather rising dough or batter that magically comes out of the oven as yummy treats. 

Leavening agents are often used to create these air pockets within the dough or batter, giving them their signature rise. 

Some commonly known baked goods include: cake, bread, rolls, cookies, pies, pastries, and muffins.

Difference #2: Appliances, Equipment & Tools

You can expect to find in a chef’s kitchen: pans, pots, knives, a peeler, tongs, grill, and more. Whereas for a baker, it is essential that they have measuring cups or a scale, a spatula, a whisk, a stand or hand mixer, but most importantly, an OVEN! 

Of course, the list varies depending on what a baker specializes in baking. For example, a baker of cake would most likely need several cake or muffin pans, whereas a breadmaker will need proofing baskets, rolling pins, and a hook attachment for the standmixer if they are using one. 

Difference #3: Precision vs. Improvisation 

People often call cooking an “art” while baking, a “science”, and for good reasons! 

When it comes to cooking, you are encouraged to improvise. In fact, this ability to improvise and cook without recipes is an important factor in distinguishing a master chef from an amateur cook. 

Baking on the other hand is a game with many rules. As with science, baking requires extreme precision and accuracy. The slightest change in temperature, time, and humidity can lead to a drastically different result. More often than not, an unexpected result in baking is an undesirable one. 

Difference #4: Popularity

Cooking techniques and ingredients vary widely across the world with every region of every country having its own distinctive cuisine. 

While techniques such as grilling, roasting, braising, and boiling are common across the world, baking as we know today is traced back to around 2600 BC with the Egyptians most often credited with their invention of enclosed ovens and the use of yeast in bread (source). 

Baking eventually spread across Europe and bread became a staple food in most European and American diets. Yet it wasn’t until the 16th century when baking was introduced to Japan and later spread across East Asia (source). 

As might be expected, you will find it more difficult and costly to find appliances, equipment, and ingredients specific for baking in countries where baking is not as widespread.

Other Questions You Might Have

Here I will be answering some other common questions regarding baking and cooking.

Which is healthier, baking or cooking?

Excessive amounts of fat, sodium and sugar in cooking, as well as overly high temperatures are what constitutes an unhealthy diet. 

While many would argue that baking is healthier as it requires little to no added fat, this is clearly not the case when we are talking about desserts such as cupcakes, brownies, cookies and etc where sugar and butter is often added in generous amounts.  

Should I be a cook or a baker?

If you like precision and like to be given exact directions to produce a consistent result, baking would appeal to you. If you are someone who values having a lot of creative liberty in the kitchen and enjoys developing your own dishes, cooking is the way to go for you. 

That said, if you are like me and enjoys stuffing your face with cakes and cookies all day, let me tell you, baking is worth all of its hassle. 

Is baking better than cooking?

The answer to this question is subjective to the individual. What is better for you is simply the better and you can decide for yourself based on all the factors I have listed above!

Conclusion

As you should know by now, cooking is a broad term that encompasses baking. Depending on your personality, needs and what equipment you have lying around at home, you will find that one is better suited for you than the other.

Cooking and baking are really just two sides of the same coin. They are both super enjoyable gastronomic experiences and great hobbies to have. It’s only a matter of practice before you start producing delicious results. 

Let me know which one you end up choosing!

About Angie
I am a self-taught baker. I’ve been baking for over 10 years and started my own home baking business as a side hustle. I was born in Hong Kong and spent a pretty big chunk of my life in Canada. If you’re ever looking for me, I am probably there whisking vigorously away in the kitchen.

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