We're reader-supported. If you buy through our links, we may earn a commission at no cost to you.

Do You Bake or Broil a Roast?

The best roasts are made in the oven. With that settled, the only question left to answer is “how.”

Whether we’re talking crackling Italian porchetta, sweet and sour cranberry pot roast, or a simple, straightforward, yet mouthwateringly delicious Sunday roast, there’s something about a hunk of meat slathered with oil, smeared with spices, and cooked to perfection in a hot oven.

But, when it comes to your oven’s settings, how can you cook that roast to perfection—especially if you don’t have a specific recipe in mind? Do you use the bake setting, or do you go for the broiler? Take a peek below to find out.

Roasts are best cooked on the bake setting, in a 400-450°F (200-230°C) oven. However, some cooks will broil their roasts for 2-3 minutes before or after the roasting to give them a crispy, golden brown, deeply flavorsome crust.

What makes this the “best” technique for making roast, you asked?

It comes down to two things, really:

On the one side, high heat browns the roast and makes it more flavorsome. On the other, the roast needs moderate heat to cook through.

What we call browning, chefs call the Maillard reaction—a chemical reaction that takes place when your roast is heated to 284°F (140°C) on the outside. The proteins and the carbs on the surface of the meat get charged up with so much energy from the heat that they start to shake and tremble violently. Sooner or later, they collide and fuse.

This collision leads to the formation of hundreds of new aroma and flavor compounds that ameliorate your roast in more than one ways. For starters, it gives it that crisp, golden-brown crust you crave. It also makes it smell meaty, taste savory, and come out richer to the pallet than it was before.

By this definition, broiling is the perfect method for cooking meat—and a broiled roast is a roast that’s the most flavorful. However, for the reasons we’re about to address below, the high heat of the broiler and the long cooking time of the roast don’t work well together.

Meat cooks from the outside in. It takes time for the heat to penetrate the protein all the way through to the center and bring it to the minimum internal temperature for doneness. As a golden rule, red meat is done when its internal temperature reaches 145°F (71°C), and poultry 165°F (74°C).

This is why only thin-cut meat, like a steak or a set of pork chops, can cook through under the direct, intense heat of your oven’s broiler. Thick-cut meat, be it a roast or a whole bird, will burn (rather badly) on the outside by the time the inside is fully cooked.

What’s the solution, then?

Basically, combination cooking: You start cooking the meat with one method and you finish it with the other.

Cook the roast on the bake setting in a 400-450°F (200-230°C) oven. Before or after, broil the roast for a few minutes to give it a nice crust. Personally, I broil after baking. If I do it the other way around, I find it difficult to get the roast to the right degree of doneness; it is just too easy to burn it.

The Bake Setting

How does it work?

When you set the oven to bake, you usually place the food on the middle rack and both the upper and lower heating elements are turned on. The hot air, with or without the help of the convection fan, cooks your food as it circulates inside the oven.

What’s the temperature range?

Although this varies with the make and the model of your oven, most ovens bottom out at 140°F (60°C) and go as high as 500°F (260°C). As a general rule of thumb, roasting recipes call for temperatures anywhere from 400°F (200°C) to 450°F (230°C).

When should I use it?

Roast large pieces of red meat, whole birds, fish, and vegetables when they should be browned and caramelized, but also cooked through. The dry, moderate heat yields foods with a crispy crust and juicy interior.

How to make the most of it?

Place the roast in a roasting pan with a wire rack. The rack elevates the meat, allowing the circulating air in the oven to cook it more evenly on both sides. Add some water to the pan and top it up once or twice during cooking. The steam will help to keep the meat juicy and tender.

The Broil Setting

How does it work?

When broiling, you adjust the rack to the top position and place the food directly under the top heating element. The lower heating element remains switched off, and the food is cooked by the intense and radiant heat emanated from above.

What’s the temperature range?

Most ovens, especially on the lower end, only have one broil option, which works at 500-550°F (260-290°C). Newer ovens, especially on the higher end, let you choose from one or two settings with a variance of 50 to 100 degrees, the highest at 550°F (290°C).

When should I use it?

Broil large cuts of meat, whole birds or fish, and vegetables if you want to achieve intense browning and a slight charring on the surface, much like that of the outdoor grill. But keep in mind that they will not to cook through to the center, so start—or finish—them by roasting.

Only thin-cut meat and finely sliced veg can be broiled to doneness. Because they cook quickly, they can tolerate high heat and haste in the kitchen.

How to make the most of it?

With the help of a basting brush, rub cooking oil on the roast before you slide it under the broiler. The cooking oil will help to distribute the heat evenly, resulting in a crispier crust.

Don’t keep the roast under the broiler too long. The high heat dries the surface of the meat out, and your roast can quickly turn from golden brown, flavorful, and crispy to charred, acrid, and crusty.

Know your author

Written by

Jim is the former editor of Home Cook World. He is a career food writer who's been cooking and baking at home ever since he could see over the counter and put a chair by the stove.