Making Meringue Is Easy—All You Need Are 2 Ingredients and Our Expert Tips
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.
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 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.
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.
To reach lofty heights, it's important to start with the right ingredients.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.