Prepping your ingredients and equipment properly (and learning what to look for and what to avoid) will help you produce fluffy, cloud-like results every time.
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lemon cranberry meringue pie on table with white tablecloth
Credit: Christopher Testani

Meringue is one of those culinary classics that holds a sneaky secret: Making it is way less complicated than it seems. Some cooks are put off by the raw egg component (pro tip: use pasteurized whites if you don't want to live on the edge), while others are overwhelmed by the steps and process.

We get it. Desserts that require meringue, like perfectly round macarons and artistic, swooping pavlovas, can seem intimidating—but the truth is that meringue is simply made up of sugar and eggs, two of the most common ingredients around. Follow our expert tips to achieve perfect peaks every time.

The Big Three

There are three main types of meringue: French, Italian, and Swiss. Each is made using the same ingredients, but there are a few differences in technique.

French Meringue

First up is the French meringue, which is typically the easiest to make. This meringue type is very light, but less stable than its siblings—and is folded into cake batters and soufflé mixtures to loosen and provide an airy finish or baked into light-as-air macaron cookies.

Italian Meringue

Italian meringue is more stable, because its hot sugar syrup is slowly whipped into egg whites to create a glossy mixture. It's best smoothed over Lemon Meringue Pie.

Swiss Meringue

Last is Swiss meringue, a firm and forgiving option that involves whipping sugar and egg whites into stiff peaks over low heat. Swiss meringue is a test-kitchen favorite—we love making Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

Meringue Ingredients

To reach lofty heights, it's important to start with the right ingredients.

Egg Whites

No yolks here! Surprisingly, fat is the enemy of a good meringue. Think about it this way: Egg yolks are what you use when you want a dense, luscious dessert like mousse or chocolate pudding. Egg whites provide the lightest, airiest texture you can imagine.

When separating yolks from whites, start with cold eggs. Eggs straight from the refrigerator are more likely to cooperate. Separate each egg into two different bowls; one bowl for the white, one for yolk. Then add the whites to your recipe one at a time. That way, if you get a bit of yolk in one, you haven't ruined the whole batch. Let the egg whites come to room temperature before whisking. This reduces their level of moisture, and in turn, will create more volume when whipped. 

Sugar

Stick with the classic: Granulated white sugar is traditional and makes the best meringue. It dissolves easily and adds moisture and stability to the mix.

Reinforcements

Many recipes call for an optional pinch of cream of tartar (xantham gum works, too). It won't change the flavor, but it will help when it comes to beating air into the meringue and prevent deflation.

Mixing Meringue

Many chefs swear that copper bowls are best for whipping, accrediting a fluffier foam to the chemical reaction between the copper and egg whites. If you don't have one handy, avoid plastic and opt for glass or metal, instead. The most important thing you can do is make sure your mixing bowls and utensils are clean and dry. Much like how egg yolks affect your meringue, any traces of oil or butter on your equipment can change the texture of your final product.

Baking Meringue

A perfectly baked meringue should release very easily when gently lifted from the baking sheet. If it's close, keep checking every 5 to 10 minutes.

The 4 Most Common Meringue Problems, Solved

Even armed with our recipes and technique-perfecting advice, there's a chance you could run into a few issues. That's why we're sharing our best tips for navigating the most common meringue problems. All are easy to avoid once you know what to look for.

Wobbly Meringue

If you're piping macarons or piling meringue onto a baking sheet for a pavlova, it can get tricky if the parchment paper moves around as you pipe or place. There's an easy fix for this: Simply spoon or pipe dots of meringue onto the corners of your baking sheet and "glue" the paper down.

Weeping

Have you ever noticed liquid seeping from the meringue atop your lemon-meringue pie? Chances are, your meringue is weeping. To avoid this, be sure to spread your meringue over the filling while the interior is still hot.

Beading

Overcooking meringue can sometimes cause beads of moisture to form on the surface, especially if it's a hot or humid day. To prevent this from happening, don't take your meringue too far; let it cool completely in the oven (with the door closed or slightly ajar).

Too-Soft Meringue

If you plan to make meringue and it's an especially rainy or damp day—don't. Meringue is sensitive to extreme weather, especially the aforementioned humidity. Excess moisture in the air can seep into meringues and make them soft, even after they are baked, which is why it's best to avoid making meringue on damp days.

Comments (3)

Martha Stewart Member
August 15, 2016
Why do my beautifully turned out meringues always go flat after they've cooled down? They taste fantastic but I miss the fluffy airiness they should have. How come ? Thanks for your help.
Martha Stewart Member
December 14, 2015
Better stabilizer than cream of tartar is xanthan gum. Also, try making a Swiss or Italian meringue instead of French. Your egg whites will be more stable, more shiny.
Martha Stewart Member
January 31, 2015
I have followed all the tips for making meringue but nothing has stopped the weeping. I made a chocolate pie, topped with meringue and baked. Cooled it and took it to a friend. Tilted the pan getting out of the car and liquid poured out. This happens to every pie I make with meringue. I have used a hand mixer and a stand mixer, a glass bowl, metal bowl and a plastic bowl. Cold eggs whites and room temperature whites with and without cream of tarter. I need help!