Oh egg whites. I never realized there was such an art to beating these protein-packed puppies until I started baking a lot of things from scratch. Cream of tartar, soft peaks, stiff peaks… what did it all mean!?! My lack of knowledge for beating egg whites has caused me to ruin a number of cookies, cakes, and frostings. After several flops, my ineptitude finally lead me to seriously research the topic so I could confidently conquer this sometimes finicky method. It turns out, there are some great fail-proof ways to ensure you have billowing and beautiful egg whites whenever you please-except, maybe, on a very humid day in the middle of July. 😉
I’ve included what I’ve learned, along with pictures, below.
How to Beat Perfect Egg Whites
1. Start out with cold eggs, as they are easier to separate. Separate egg yolks and whites, making sure no yolks are mixed in with the whites (I like to use pre-separated egg whites from the grocery store when I’m in a hurry).
2. Cover the whites with plastic wrap and allow to warm to room temperature, for about 30 minutes. You can speed up this process by placing the bowl of egg whites in a bowl of hot, but not boiling water and gently stirring for about two minutes. Having them at room temperature allows the protein to maximally expand, which ensures you get the most volume out of your egg whites (apparently I do use those college chemistry courses in everyday life 😉 ).
3. Before you beat the whites, be sure you have a clean and dry electric beaters as well as a large stainless steel, glass, or copper bowl. Any fat left on the bowl or beaters will prevent peaks from forming.
4. With the mixer on low speed, beat the whites until are frothy then add 1/8 tsp of an acid (cream of tartar, vinegar, or lemon juice) per egg to help stabilize the whites and prevent over beating.*
5. After the whites are frothy, gradually increase the speed of the mixers to medium-high. Once you are beating the eggs, you don’t want to stop for long periods of time as the whites will start to disintegrate. For a recipe that calls for soft peak egg whites, stop when the whites form rounded peaks that droop when the beaters are lifted. Be sure to scrape along the bottom of the bowl.
6. If the recipe you are using requires sugar, gradually start adding the sugar at the soft peak stage. For best results, only add 2 tablespoons at a time to allow the sugar to dissolve after each addition.
7. For stiff peaks, stop when the whites form glossy peaks that hold their shape when the beaters are lifted.STOP mixing when you reach this stage. Over beaten egg whites are clumpy and watery and are irreparable, so be careful not to reach this point.
8. Use the whites immediately.
*When making meringues, only add 1/8 tsp for every 2 egg whites.