How to Beat Egg Whites to Stiff Peaks for Light-as-Air Desserts

Learn everything you need to know about how to beat egg whites stiff for the airiest cakes, meringues, souffles, and other feather-light desserts.

whipped egg whites in glass bowl with hand mixer

BHG/Andrea Araiza

Some of the most delicate and delicious desserts are made with stiff peak egg whites, including Angel Food, Chiffon, and Sponge Cakes. Other treats that seem lighter than air include meringue-topped pies and soufflés. There's no way around it; if you want to make some of the world's most refined desserts, you'll have to learn how to make stiff peak egg whites. Fortunately, it can be done in just a few simple steps.

How to Beat Egg Whites to Stiff Peaks Step-by-Step

Before we can get to the actual beating, we need to get our eggs ready.

egg yolk in an egg separator

BHG/Andrea Araiza

1. Separate the Eggs

Fun fact about eggs: They separate more easily when they're cold, but you'll achieve stiff egg whites more easily if you let them warm up a bit before beating. Use an egg separator ($7.99, Bed Bath & Beyond) to separate the eggs straight from the fridge. After separating, let the whites stand 30 minutes; they'll beat to stiff peaks higher and faster than cold egg whites.

Egg whites should be free of any yolk to achieve stiff peaks. Each time you separate the egg, let the white drain into a small bowl such as a custard cup ($9.99, Bed Bath & Beyond). 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? Stir them into our Best-Ever Vanilla Pudding or make Lemon Curd.

2. Get Your Equipment Ready

While waiting for those whites to warm up a bit, make sure your bowl, beaters, and spatula are all clean and dry. Any grease or egg yolk will keep your whites from beating to stiff peaks properly. So, before you begin, wash all your equipment with 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: Should you use a hand mixer ($22.99, Target) or a stand mixer ($449.95, Williams Sonoma)? Both work, but you'll need to consider the bowl size: 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.

beaten egg whites in bowl with hand mixer

BHG/Andrea Araiza

3. Beat Egg Whites Until Stiff

Turn on the mixer to medium speed and beat until soft peaks form, then beat on high until stiff peaks form. You've hit stiff peak egg white stage when you have glossy peaks that stand straight. Here are a few pointers for achieving stiff peak egg whites.

  • 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 for about 1 minute or until soft peaks form (tips curl). Then start adding the sugar as directed in the recipe (usually a tablespoon at a time) and continue beating at high speed until stiff peaks form. You'll know this has happened when the tips stand straight up when you lift the beaters from the egg whites.

Test Kitchen Tip: How long does it take to beat stiff peak egg whites? Once you start adding the sugar, it will take about 4 minutes on high speed.

  • Savory dishes (such as soufflés) require no sugar. Simply beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight). This will take 4 to 5 minutes total.

Ta-da! You've done it! Now you can make a Lemon Meringue Pie or Mint Meringue Cookies. You can also swirl stiff peak egg whites into a Pavlova, add them to a cheese sauce for a luscious main-dish soufflé—and so much more.

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