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Successfully whisking egg whites

When whisking egg whites for meringue, etc what you are doing is incorporating air into them in the form of air bubbles. The protein strands in the egg white will wrap themselves around the air causing the bubbles, much the same way as the rubber in a balloon wraps itself around the air when it is inflated.

The method of incorporating air can change the texture of the foam you produce and thus the texture of the recipe. Too much air incorporated too quickly will stretch the molecular structure of the protein bands and these strands can actually break, resulting in whites that are over beaten and will be furry looking, grainy with no cohesion between the particles. This will eventually break down back into a liquid and cannot be restored. In terms of texture, too much air at the beginning will result in wide air holes rather than a firm texture. A slower initial speed is best, beat slowly and then increase speed as you go.

The trick for a successful meringue therefore is ensuring the mixture is as stable as possible, the protein strands are thoroughly wrapped around but not over stretched so they do not burst and the mixture falls flat.

Egg quality
Using slightly thinner egg whites are best (farm fresh whites will not successfully whip due to the tight fresh whites).

The whites are best brought up to room temperature before use.

Whisking egg whitesThe method of incorporating air can change the texture of the foam you produce and thus the texture of the recipe.This is easier to control and do if you are using an electric whisk but must be judged more carefully if doing it by hand.

  • Start by whisking slowly to break the protein strands down.

  • As the mixture starts to get foamy increase speed slightly for a few minutes.

  • Increase speed.

  • When whisking in sugar, do so at a high speed.

When whipping egg white we talk about two stages - soft peaks and stiff peaks.

  • Soft peaks are when a successful foam is obtained . . . when your finger is placed into the whipped egg whites, it will hold up in a peak when you remove your finger although it will fold over slightly, forming a wave like shape. At this stage, if the bowl is tipped upside down, the meringue will stick to the bowl and not come out. The soft peak stage is best for when it is to be folded into another mixture such as mousses, etc.

  • Stiff peaks require further whipping and the peaks will stand vertical on the finger and the peaks will not fold over. This is the stage required for meringues, Pavlova, etc where other ingredients are going to be incorporated into it.

Any type of fat, oil or grease is the curse of successful egg white whipping. Even a small amount will inhibit the egg white from whipping to a successful foam. So care must be taken:

  • Thoroughly clean all equipment such as bowls, whisks, containers, that will come into contact with the egg white, in hot soapy water and rinse clean. Either wipe with paper kitchen towels or allow to drip dry. Tea towels will often have some grease in them.

  • Stainless steel bowls or glass bowls are better for whisking as they can be thoroughly cleaned whereas a plastic bowl can hide a smear of fat within its walls, especially if it is in a poor state of repair (grooves scraped into the sides).

  • When separating the yolk from the white use three containers. One for the yolk, one for white and one to transfer the white into each time. This way if the yolk breaks you will only ruin one white and not the whole batch. Remember egg yolk is pretty much 99% fat.

  • Some chefs will run a slice of lemon around the bowl and whisk. This breaks down any minute traces of fat and does not affect the flavour as lemon juice or vinegar is often included in meringue recipes.

Other tips include:

  • Professional Chefs use a pure copper bowl for egg white whipping / meringue production. Achemical reaction occurs resulting in a far better foam.

  • Use as large a bowl as possible. This encourages the maximum amount of air incorporation.

  • Some chefs advocate a little pinch of salt when whipping egg whites to stabilise the foam. Some put it in before starting to whip, some at the end. My suggestion is to try it for yourself and see what you think.

  • Use only fresh eggs but not too fresh and use them at room temperature. So if you keep eggs in the refrigerator they will need to come out and sit at room temperature for a few hours before use.

  • If you want to know how to tell if eggs are fresh read How to tell if an egg is fresh.

  • When folding aerated whites into a mixture, use a metal spoon - always preferred because wooden implements may retain grease.



Food and Cooking Tips
from professional
Chef Tallyrand


Born and raised in Plymouth, Tallyrand started his initial training as a chef at Plymouth College of Further Education. It was here that he was to learn his love, his passion for food and the culinary arts. From here he headed to Germany to complete his apprenticeship as Commis de Gardemanger.

Germany gave him his first taste of cooking for the rich and famous, as half way through his first year, along with the Sous Chef and a Chef de Partie, he was whisked off to Cologne to help prepare meals for a political conference, where amongst other dignitaries they cooked for Mr Brehznev, the then powerful Russian leader. This was to prove to be just one of the many celebrities he was to cook for or get to know over the years . . .

If you would like to find out more why not visit Tallyrand's own web site www.tallyrand.info (link in main menu)

Email Hub-UK : info@hub-uk.com