What's the Difference Between Baking and Broiling?

It's all about the temperature.

mother and son baking putting dish in oven
Photo: Getty Images

You'll often hear us singing the praises of a simple sheet pan supper, and for good reason. On our busiest days, the sheet pan supper has been there for us. Tossing all of our ingredients on a sheet tray and popping it in the oven is one of our favorite strategies for getting a great dinner on the table—minimal effort required.

When it comes to a weeknight dinner, our oven is our best friend. But are you using your oven to its fullest potential? Your oven has a few different cooking modes that, when used properly, can yield incredible results. It's important to understand the basic functionalities of your oven to produce your best meals yet.

Today, we're breaking down the differences between two of your oven's most-used modes: bake and broil. What is the difference between baking and broiling? When should you use one mode or the other? We've got all the answers to your questions, plus a few recipe recommendations to help you make the most of your oven.

Bake vs. Broil: What's the Difference?

Your oven is built with a few different heating zones. Depending on the model of your oven, you'll likely find heating elements on the top, bottom, and maybe even the back of your oven. This gives your oven the ability to concentrate heat in one particular area or to activate all of the heating zones to give you even, all-over cooking.

The primary differences between baking and broiling rest in the heat source and the temperature. Baking uses indirect heat—in the form of hot air circulating evenly around the oven—at lower temperatures (from 170 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit) to cook your food over a longer period of time.

Broiling, however, uses direct, concentrated infrared heat from one heat source—either from the top or the bottom, depending on your oven—to cook food very quickly at a high temperature (550 degrees Fahrenheit). You might have a broil setting on your oven, or the broiler might be built into a separate drawer beneath the oven. Here's your cheat sheet: baking cooks at cooler temperatures for longer; broiling cooks at hotter temperatures, for a shorter amount of time.

When to Bake vs. When to Broil

We consider baking to be our everyday mainstay, while broiling is a special accent. Broiling focuses all of the heat on the surface of the food—if you're cooking a thicker cut of meat like a chicken breast, you run the risk of browning the outside without cooking the inside through. When cooking thicker cuts of meat or a dense casserole like lasagna, we will first opt for baking. Then, to achieve a crisp exterior, give it a quick trip under the broiler to finish it off.

Similar to grilling, broiling uses high heat to quickly sear and brown food. It can be used to cook thin cuts of meat, like our Broiled Lamb Chops, to achieve a golden-brown crust (like in our Broiled Crusty Tomatoes or Broiled Oysters), or to add additional texture to a food that has already been baked. That French onion soup is far more appealing with a golden-brown crown of melted cheese, an effect only achieved in the broiler.

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