Baking vs. Broiling Heating Elements

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Most ovens come with both a baking heating element and a broiler heating element. These elements are not interchangeable; each one cooks in a specific way. There are advantages to using them both. Most ovens -- gas or electric -- have both elements in one oven compartment but some stoves have a separate, smaller broiler-only oven compartment, too.

How Baking Works

  • Ovens have heating elements at the floor of the store for baking and roasting. These cooking techniques require very evenly distributed, sustained heat for an extended period of time. The heating element at the bottom of the stove uses radiant heat to heat the racks and all sides of the oven. The heat radiating from the bottom of the oven causes hot air to circulate gently throughout the oven, surrounding the food uniformly. When the baking element is on, temperatures can be controlled in a range from about 200 degrees Fahrenheit to as high as 450 F.

How Broiling Works

  • Broiling elements are at the top of the oven, just below its ceiling. Broiling is done at a very high temperature -- usually 500 F -- for a short period of time. Adjust oven racks to the top of the oven so they are near the broiler heating element. Some stoves have a separate small broiler oven, often below a main full-size oven.

When to Use the Baking Element

  • Use the baking element to cook large cuts of meat such as hams; pork or beef roasts; turkey, duck and other large poultry; meatloaf; lasagna and casseroles. Large vegetables such as pumpkin and winter squash bake well. Pastries including pies, cakes and breads require the steady, uniformly distributed heat that only a baking element can supply.

When to Use the Broiling Element

  • Use the broiling element to cook small cuts of meat such as steak, pork chops, hamburger patties, hot dogs and sausages. The intense heat from above makes the broiler element ideal for browning the top of au gratin dishes, casseroles and other dishes topped with cheese. Brown the cheese and crouton topping French onion soup under the broiler. Pizza heats up quickly when placed under a broiler. The closer to the top of the oven -- and the broiler element -- a dish is, the faster it will cook.

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