Your Step-By-Step Guide on How to Beat Egg Whites to Soft Peaks
We've got everything you need to know about how to beat egg whites to soft peaks. Then once you've mastered the technique, you get to enjoy all the delicious soufflés, meringues, macarons, and other airy delights you like.
There's something almost magical about ending a meal with a slice of meringue pie or pavlova. And lighter-than-air meringue cookies or macarons make the perfect treat for any time of the day. In order to make sponge cakes, soufflés, and other cloud-like desserts at home, you have to be able to accomplish one necessary baking method: beating egg whites to soft peaks. Lucky for you, it only takes a few simple steps to learn, and we're here to demonstrate exactly how to beat your egg whites to soft peaks perfectly for all your favorite recipes.
How to Beat Egg Whites to Soft Peaks
Before the actual beating of eggs starts, there are some essential things we need to get ready for the process.
1. Separate the Eggs
Here's the thing about eggs: they separate more easily when they’re cold, but you can get to soft peak status more easily if you let them warm up first. Use an egg separator ($10, Williams Sonoma) to separate the eggs straight from the fridge. Then let the whites stand for 30 minutes; this way, they will beat to soft peaks easier and faster than cold egg whites.
Note that in order to achieve soft peaks, egg whites cannot have any yolk. Therefore, each time you separate the egg, let the white drain into a small bowl ($11, World Market) first. Then transfer each white to the mixing bowl you’ll use to beat the whites. Repeat, allowing each white to drain separately into the small bowl before adding it to the large mixing bowl. This keeps the whites in the mixing bowl uncontaminated if a yolk breaks while you’re separating an egg.
Test Kitchen Tip: Need help using up those leftover yolks? Try making zabaglione, a creamy Italian classic dessert. Or you create a tangy homemade lemon curd. If you’re not ready to do create those yet, find out how to store egg yolks.
2. Get Your Equipment Ready
Any amount of grease or egg yolk will keep your whites from beating to stiff peaks properly. So while you’re waiting for those whites to warm up, clean and dry your bowl, beaters, and spatula by washing in hot, soapy water. Use a glass or stainless-steel bowl; avoid plastic bowls, as they can retain a greasy residue from previous uses.
Test Kitchen Tip: Do you use a hand mixer ($20, Target) or stand mixer ($280, Macys)? Both get the job done, but you’ll need to take the bowl size into account: According to The American Egg Board, a small mixing bowl is best for up to three egg whites. Use a large mixing bowl for four or more whites.
3. Beat Egg Whites Until Soft
And now, allow your mixer to work its magic. At medium speed, start beating your egg whites. You'll notice them start to foam and eventually turn white and then cloud-like. You'll know you've made it to the soft peak stage when you turn over your beater (or use a spatula to dip in) and then lift it upright to see the tips of the whites curling a bit. They'll definitely be a peak shape, but will flop over and go back into the mixture after a few seconds.
- Recipes often call for adding cream of tartar before beating whites to stiff peaks. This acidic ingredient helps stabilize the whites. Use as directed.
- When making meringue and other desserts that call for adding sugar to the whites, beat egg whites with an electric mixer on medium speed. Then start adding the sugar as directed in the recipe (usually a tablespoon at a time).
There you have it! Even if your recipe requires you to continue beating your eggs to stiff peaks, you'll usually have to stop at the soft peak stage before you start adding sugar to your recipe. Now that you know how to beat egg whites to soft peaks, give the technique a try with a strawberry-mango pavlova, cocoa-hazelnut macarons, or coconut meringue cheesecake.