The process of beating egg whites is often seen as something arduous that's difficult to accomplish without ending up with a curdled mess.
This guide will help you understand the fickle nature of egg whites and the required techniques to whip them correctly so that you can finally get the confidence to make those meringues or pavlovas you've always wanted to do but were too afraid of messing up.
Note: This Instructable does not provide any particular recipe on how to make meringues, or any other egg white-based recipe. Baking is a precise science and as a result, this guide is only here to give a comprehensive explanation on the technique of correctly whipping egg whites. Take this knowledge and apply it to recipes without altering any measurements of the recipe you're using as that can completely ruin the beating of the whites within that recipe.
Step 1: Ingredients
Recipes that require the use of egg whites typically call for a minimum of 2 eggs. The larger the recipe, however, the more whites you will require.
A pinch of salt–
Make sure it is fine salt to ensure it dissolves easily into the whites.
Such as cream of tartar, vinegar or lemon juice.
Step 2: Tools
A large glass or stainless steel bowl–
The material of the bowl you'll be whipping your whites in is extremely important. NEVER ever beat egg whites in a plastic bowl. Plastic retains oils like a sponge and will leave you with weepy, broken up whites. That's not cool.
Also, the process of whipping whites causes their total volume to increase by 6 to 9 times. As a result, start off with a pretty big bowl to beat them.
Stand mixer, hand-held mixer or whisk–
For best results, use an electric stand mixer or hand-held mixer unless you're into going old-school and doing it all by hand (it will also take significantly longer doing it with a whisk).
A paper towel & vinegar–
As a safe-guard, lightly dab a paper towel with vinegar and wipe your whisk and bowl interior to reduce the possibility of your egg whites from breaking.
Step 3: Whipping the Whites
Now, separate your whites while being extremely careful not to let any yolks in.
Once you have your egg whites, place them into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or a regular large bowl for those using hand mixers/whisks). Add the pinch of salt here.
Start beating at a low speed (Kitchen Aid speed 2) until the whites start becoming frothy.
Note: Egg whites are very delicate so always start beating them at a slow speed and gradually increase it as they begin to froth and increase in size.
Step 4: Frothy/Foamy Stage
This is the very first stage of beating whites. After about a minute or so, the whites should be filled with tiny bubbles that have developed since we started incorporating air into them with the whisk.
Step 5: Adding the Acid
After reaching this frothy stage, add in the cream of tartar, vinegar or lemon juice. You only need a little bit of this. Most recipes typically call for a 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar or a couple of drops of lemon juice/vinegar (I typically do a pinch of cream of tartar).
Your recipe may or may not call for any of these, but they're here anyway because they act as a safeguard. Acids are the heroes in achieving well-whipped egg whites as they stabilize and help them increase in volume. They also reduce the possibility of your whites breaking on you. So they've got your back.
Increase the mixer speed to medium (Kitchen Aid speed 4 to 6) and continue beating.
Step 6: Soft Peak Stage
After beating for a couple of minutes, the whites will begin to reach their soft peak stage. This is when the egg whites just start to hold their shape, but are still not firm enough to stay in that form permanently.
In terms of appearance, they are quite soft and whiter than they were at the foamy stage. If you pick up your whisk and hold it upright after whipping, the whites should form peaks that sort of slump over to the side.
Note: For meringues or any other sweet recipe needing beaten egg whites, the sugar should be added-in at this point.
Also remember to treat your whites like delicate little babies. To avoid losing that beautiful air you have created from beating, add the sugar into the egg whites one tablespoon at a time.
Increase your mixer speed to medium-high (Kitchen Aid speed 6-8) and continue beating.
Step 7: Stiff Peak Stage
After a couple of minutes, the eggs will reach the stiff peak stage.When you pick up your whisk, the peaks formed at this point can stand on their own and hold their shape without melting over.
Note: Egg whites that have sugar incorporated into them during the beating process tend to be firmer as well as glossier than regular whipped egg whites.
Step 8: Over-beating
Over-beaten whites are no good. They're flat, grainy, watery and cannot be salvaged. If your whites ever reach this stage, throw them out.
You can start to identify whether you're over-beating your whites if you begin to see a grainy-looking residue on the side of your bowl.
Step 9: Additional Tips
- It is recommended to bring your whites to room temperature prior to beating them as you will get more volume out of them than eggs that have come straight out of the fridge.
- Always use your egg whites immediately. If you do not, they will begin to separate (as shown in the photo above) and can no longer be used.
- Make sure there are no yolks in your whites as well as any oils since any of these two elements will prevent your whites from properly whipping and forming peaks.
Step 10: That's It!
Hopefully this guide helps you better understand the technique behind beating egg whites correctly.
Now go whip some egg whites!