I get this all the time, and I know I’m not alone. Baking and cooking are totally different ball games, and it always baffles people when one says they’re not good at the other. Let’s talk about it.
- Baking is precise, cooking is not
Example: when baking, you must have 1 full cup of flour, and if you don’t everything is ruined. Or what if you overmix your cake batter? Guess what – cake won’t rise. Anyone ever heard of a lasagna “falling” like a souffle? Don’t think so. When cooking? Eh, throw in some spices and call it a day. How much? However much you like!
My husband, when home alone, makes ¾ of a box of pasta for himself. Because he doesn’t measure ever, and is like “eh! sure why not.”
- Baking is particular, cooking is not
Because baking is crazy science, you have to add things in a particular order, or in a particular state of matter (ice cold water, room temperature eggs, vinegar and baking soda at the same time, etc…). Cooking is a lot more forgiving, seeing as you’re usually melting it or literally cooking it all together – timing plays more of a factor there, as you don’t want to burn anything.
- Baking is not always done to taste
A lot of the time, batter for cupcakes or cookies or brownies tastes great. Yes, you’re not supposed to eat it but let’s not pretend we don’t all do it anyway. You can’t usually tell that there’s not enough egg or flour in something by tasting it, but if you’re making soup chances are you can tell if it needs a little something else.
- Baking takes a lot of time & patience
This is kind of a toss up with the new trend of mug cakes going around, but honestly, making dough and refrigerating it, frosting cakes… that’s always a thing. When you cook dinner it’s not always a Thanksgiving feast where it takes hours to make. Crock pots being an exception, but those don’t even need to be watched! Cooking you can boil pasta and let the water do it’s thing, stirring occasionally, while grating cheese and getting a saucepan ready – and have broccoli steaming in another pot. The way things cook lends itself to multitasking, which baking can rarely do because of the order ingredients need to be put in and how.
- Baking makes it harder to experiment, unless you know what you’re doing
So you’ll hear a lot that cooking is creative, and you can sort of just do whatever you want, so long as it tastes good in the end. I know that for baking, you can do that too, but if people don’t know that you can swap out oil for applesauce at a 1:1 ratio, or that swapping confectioner’s sugar for granulated will NOT make the same thing happen, you’re only going to end up being so creative. There’s a learning curve in both, because if you don’t know what flavors go with the subject OR how much of it, you can get screwed real fast. With cooking, you can usually/hopefully balance it out with other flavors. Baking, if you add too much of something it can throw the equilibrium off and your goodies won’t rise.
- Terminology is not interchangeable
So reading a recipe book can be a challenge sometimes, especially if you’re not as advanced in one side or the other. Since I’m a self-taught baker, I’ve picked up on a handful of terms, and I watch enough food network to know what other cooking terms are out there. I just learned how to saute some bok choy like a month ago, and it was my first time sauteing something. I’m 25 and I wish I was kidding. But chances are I will not need to julienne something, and a cook is not going to need to pipe something.
- Ingredients are not always on hand
My husband does most of the cooking in the house, though we’re trying all the time to make it so we don’t need to go out to eat. He’s a really simple cook (and good, I’m not knocking simple), but we tend to not have as many fresh ingredients around. Let’s use garlic as an example. I know in my head that garlic salt or garlic powder are not the same and will not make the dish taste the same, but we don’t cook with “garlic” enough for me to justify using a whole bulb. Meanwhile, I just bought two enormous bags of flour and sugar, and 2 bags of brown sugar. Everyone at the store knew what I was doing when I got home. #noshame – but in all seriousness, I have the pantry of a baker, not a cook.
- Heat Pt. 1
So let’s back up for a second – heat is super important in both cooking and baking, because without heat you can’t exactly get a finished product. Heat does different things during cooking and baking though. With cooking, WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) – put in ziti with cheese on top, get ziti with melted cheese on top. If it were that way with (most) baked goods? Baking would not have been as popular, because everyone judges food by their covers. Put in lump of beige dough, get brownish cookie. Here’s a fun ted video taking you through what happens to cookie dough in an oven.
- Heat Pt. 2
My next point I feel needed a different bullet, even though it’s very similar. When you’re cooking and you have a pan over heat, so long as you’re watching it kinda sorta for the most part, you’re in good shape, minus some sauces. If you’re baking and you’re making caramel, or melting chocolate? Not the same story. You have to be stirring consistently AND watching it like a hawk because everything can go from great to horrible in seconds. This is where the patience and lack of multitasking I talked about earlier comes in.
- Baking is Not Required
So my thought is this: cooking was probably invented as a way to make food safe to eat (and probably better tasting, no one ever asked for venison sushi). Baking is superfluous – meaning that you don’t have to have dessert. You don’t have to have an appetizer either, but you do need to eat “fuel efficient” food. I think that for me, this adds to the appeal of baking – because most of the time you’re doing it for fun. I’d suspect that 90% of recipes for baked goods out there are for groups/more than one serving, so not only is the process of baking fun for me, but it’s benefiting more than just myself.
Seeing that I’m a baker and not a cook, I’m clearly biased to an extent. I tried to contribute what I know about cooking to this, but seeing that I’m a terrible beginner cook I can only say so much and be convincing about it.
If you’re a cook I’d love to hear your side too! Why do you find baking to be different, or harder than cooking?