It’s magic, really. When whisked vigorously, the proteins in egg whites denature and form new bonds, creating a tight network where air is trapped. These bubbles bring lift and lightness to mousses, sponge cakes, and meringues.
But it’s not all fancy desserts: Whipped whites offer height to pancakes and waffles and can turn a regular omelet into an omelet soufflé. To whip whites successfully, follow these tips.
1. Get set for success
Start with room-temp eggs (cold whites don’t incorporate air nearly as well) and a totally clean large bowl—even a drop of fat will interfere. Some people add a pinch of cream of tartar before they start, which prevents over-whipping and helps the whites reach a greater volume.
2. Start slow
Start at low speed in order to break up the proteins in the egg whites, which will allow them to become more elastic. Once they’re loose (you’ll notice that they’re more foamy—see below—and homogenous-looking), begin beating more quickly to incorporate air.
3. Know the stages
When you start beating, your whites will look foamy, like sudsy soap. Next, they’ll reach soft peaks, where they briefly hold their shape before sinking into the bowl. Keep beating (this is when a recipe for sweetened egg whites might have you slowly add sugar) and you’ll get to medium peaks, which keep their shape but bend at the top like a witch’s hat or, as the French call it, bec d’oiseau (bird’s beak). Finally, you’ll reach stiff peaks, which stand tall and straight. At this point, your mixture will be fluffy and voluminous, like marshmallow fluff or shaving cream.
4. Stop at stiff
Don’t be tempted to continue: Go too far and the meringue will start to weep (i.e., release water) and form clumps that can’t be easily incorporated into a batter. To fix broken, overbeaten egg whites, you can add an additional white and whisk briefly, just to incorporate its moisture into the original group. But don’t take it too far or you’ll be back where you started.
Whip egg whites, eat like an angel:
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