Baking: Convection and Radiation

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Baking , as a method of cooking, denotes the cooking of food, uncovered, in an enclosed oven, using convection. Baking relies on heat from a hot oven to cook food. Heat is provided by radiation from the walls of the oven and convection of hot air circulating in the oven, often supplemented by a fan to drive the hot air around. Both methods of heating heat the food. Baking easily dehydrates the surface of the ingredients, browning them well provided that the temperature in the oven is high enough, but this can also dry out your foods, especially poultry and meat.

An oven is generally heated to well above boiling point to 150 - 220oC (300 - 430oF) or higher. However, because neither radiation nor convection transfer heat rapidly through an ingredient, baking is much less effective than boiling in terms of heat transfer. For example, a potato boils in half the time to it takes to bake, varying on the basis of actual weight. This is because air is much less dense than water (about one thousandth the density), so the hot air molecules collide with the potato much less frequently than do the boiling water molecules, so energy is transferred much less often between the two.

Because baking needs a sophisticated bit of kit - the oven - it was adopted by people much later than grilling, barbecuing or hot water. The earliest ovens were bread ovens from around 3000 BCE, but the modern oven for baking and casseroles only really dates to the nineteenth century, or even later to the advent of gas and electric ovens in the twentieth century. Before then, meats were cooked over an open fire.

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