Originally, the term "to roast" meant to cook before a fire, because, before the time of stoves, practically all food was cooked in the fireplace. Food that was to be roasted was placed before the fire in a device that reflected heat, this device being open on the side toward the fire and closed on that toward the room. The roast was suspended in this device, slowly turned, and thus cooked by radiant heat—that is, heat given off in the form of direct rays—the principle being the same as that of broiling, but the application different. Nowadays, the term roasting is almost universally applied to the action of both hot air and radiant heat. However, much of what is called roasting is in reality baking. Foods cooked in the oven of an ordinary coal or gas range are really baked, although they are said to be roasted, and a covered roasting pan is a misnomer. Food must be exposed to the air in the process of cooking if it is to be roasted in the true sense.
It may be well to note that successful roasting or broiling depends more on the shape of the article to be roasted or broiled than on its weight. For this reason, thick, compact cuts of meat are usually selected for roasting and thin cuts for broiling. Good results also depend very much on the pan selected for the roasting process. One of the great aims in cooking should be to save or conserve all the food possible; that is, if by one process less waste in cooking results, it should be chosen rather than one that will result in loss at the end of the cooking process.