How baking differs from cooking? Details compared!

The main difference is in terminology. Cooking is a general term that covers a lot of different techniques. Baking is a cooking technique. The other important thing is that baking uses mostly dry heat while cooking uses moist heat.

This definition is as straightforward as possible. If you would like to know more about this topic, you can read on.

Now you know that baking is a cooking technique. So what are the similarities and differences between both of those?

The excellent point is that a great cook doesn’t have to be a great baker and a great baker doesn’t and, in most cases, won’t be a great chef. 

Quick reference table of differences between cooking and baking:

CookingBaking
TimingCan add few minutes if neededHave to be precise
TemperatureCan compensate by adding or removing timeHave to be exact
FlourAll-purpose is fine in most casesHave to use recipe specific one
PreparationCan ‘wing it’, good practice to prep aheadBest results achieved when prepped ahead
IngredientsMuch more room for exchangesShould always stick to a recipe
AppliancesCan be appliance dependantUses mostly basic appliances
CleaningCan be time-consuming if not done while cookingEasier, as the mixture can be done in one bowl

Interested in deep dive into the basics of baking? Read more in my article here.

Cooking

Cooking is a general term for a lot of techniques that are used to prepare food. Baking is one of those techniques. This means that there are a lot of things that all fall under the category of cooking.

Cooking allows you to have a bit more freedom to experiment. It is an expression of your feelings, and many consider it to be an art form. If something goes wrong, you can usually salvage it or hide it. 

Both techniques are similar in that they use heat to release the energy in food and change its chemical structure. As mentioned in the beginning, the difference is that baking uses mostly dry heat while cooking uses moist heat.

Baking

Baking is mastery of exacts. It is closer to alchemy or science than anything else. You have to follow the recipe to the letter, at least if you do not have extensive experience with it. If you don’t, the dish won’t come out as expected. 

Baking, as a technique, also requires you to pay close attention to the temperature and the time. The temperature of the ingredients and the time are crucial. Otherwise, the product is not going to develop in flavor and texture fully.

In baking, the risk is more significant. If you fail to follow the recipe to the letter and the final product is not as expected, it is usually a problem to ‘hide.’

Below I describe in detail the critical differences between cooking and baking.

Timing

While timing in cooking is essential, it still allows you to add or remove a few minutes here and there as there can be a lot of different variables, like the size of vegetables, the thickness of the meat, the size of your pots and pans, and many other things. 

In baking, there is no room for guessing. The timing must be precise, as the final result can significantly change if you add just a few minutes. You can quickly go from a light and moist cake to a dense and dry one. 

Temperature

In cooking, you can always compensate for a temperature deviation by adding or removing a few minutes.

In baking, the temperature has to be precise. If you set the oven too high or too low, it will result in unevenly baked goods. 

Flour

While in cooking, it is often enough to use all-purpose flour. In some cases, you can use cornstarch. 

Baking is all about using the correct type of flour. In baking, there are a lot of different types. In most recipes, you will find that you will have to add flour to the recipe to get the right amount of leavening agents. 

Preparation

Prep is important for both cooking and baking, but while you will be able to ‘wing it’ in cooking in baking, this approach ain’t going to fly. 

It is much easier to spend some extra time to measure and prepare everything ahead of your baking. Measure and weigh everything and put it into separate bowls. Then combine it step by step following the recipe will yield the best results. 

You can always lower the temperature or let something simmer to gain a bit of time to cut or add an ingredient in cooking. 

Ingredients

Similar to the preparation, baking is much more sensitive to the ingredients used. 

This doesn’t mean that you cannot substitute one or two ingredients in your baking recipe, but you have to count on the fact that the result will change drastically. 

For example, if you exchange milk for water in the pancake recipe, you will get the same pancake but a less creamy flavor. The results will be a bit empty in terms of taste, so you’ll need to add a bit more sugar or other flavorings. 

In cooking, on the other hand, you can exchange whole proteins and achieve the same results. If they will work and taste the same, it is a different story. 

In general, you can manipulate the recipe in cooking in many different ways, adding and removing ingredients and spices to fit your desired result. 

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Appliances

While potentially significant, the overall baking process is much more straightforward than cooking. 

Cooking requires a time-consuming and often expensive process of having several pots with specific sizes, a stove, and cooking food without burning it. This is because cooking involves heat transfer from the ingredients into the pots through the walls of those. 

Baking only requires one cookie sheet, parchment paper, a pan, and an oven. The fun begins with mixing the dough before it’s rolled into shapes and baked or poured into a baking pan.

Cleaning

While both require some cleaning afterward, the scale is usually much more considerable in cooking. 

Cooking requires hot water and soap for washing all the equipment and dishes. Depending on the type of utensils you use, cleaning them can be a time-consuming affair. This is because the equipment needs to be washed thoroughly and dried before storing. 

Baking requires a quick wipe with a wet towel for the dishes and oven, and it’s done. 

The verdict

It’s not a competition. There is no winner and no loser. 

Both techniques can be used to create excellent dishes. However, you will need to try them out for yourself and see which one fits better in your lifestyle.

If you are interested in a more general overview of all basic cooking techniques, check out my article here.

Summary

That was the extensive comparison of cooking and baking. Now you know how to differentiate them from each other. 

In a nutshell, baking requires precise measurements and high temperatures. At the same time, cooking can be more flexible and is done at lower temperatures.

Hopefully, you should now be able to tell what the difference is between cooking and baking.

I hope this article answered your question about the difference between cooking and baking. If you have any additional questions, please leave a comment below.

Until next time I wish you successful cooking and baking.

Vojta Vevera

Combining a love for cooking and using all kinds of technological gizmos helps Vojta to bring the experiences and excitement to all his articles. He is always doing his best to serve you with great information. Mixing over 15 years of cooking experience with his analytical mind and love for all technological things.

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