How to Make Meringue Topping for Pies
Feathery, light meringue topping that melts in your mouth is easy to make using these simple steps. Try our meringue recipe and step-by-step help for how to make meringue for any pie recipe.
Peaks and swirls of meringue are the crowning glory to some of the most beloved pies: banana cream, coconut cream, chocolate cream, and lemon meringue. And once you know how to make meringue, you may find you want to top other desserts, too, like fruit crisp recipes or berry desserts. We'll teach you how to make perfect meringue with our step-by-step guide for light and airy but sensationally sweet meringue topping.
Step 1: Bake Piecrust and Filling
If learning how to make lemon meringue pie is on your baking to-do list, mastering a basic meringue recipe is key. Start by following your recipe for making and baking the pie crust and filling in a pie pan like a Pyrex Grip Rite Glass Pie Pan ($5.29, Target). Then follow our steps below for preparing the meringue.
Step 2: Separate Egg Whites
Separate the yolks from four eggs using an egg separator. [We like the Soleader Egg Separator Tool ($14.99, Amazon).] Place the whites in a large bowl. Let the egg whites stand at room temperature 30 minutes.
Test Kitchen Tip: Room temperature egg whites beat to a greater volume than egg whites taken directly from the refrigerator.
Step 3: Beat Egg Whites to Soft Peaks
Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar before you begin beating the egg whites. You can learn how to make meringue without cream of tartar, but adding cream of tartar helps stabilize the meringue and prevent it from weeping, so we recommend using it.
Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on medium until soft peaks form. At this point, they will curl over when you lift the beaters.
Step 4: Add Sugar Gradually
Add 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, while beating on high speed. The sugar must be added gradually while you beat the egg whites to stiff peaks (tips stand straight). Adding the sugar too quickly will knock air out of the egg whites and make them difficult to mix thoroughly.
Test Kitchen Tip: If you're using a handheld mixer like the KitchenAid 5-Speed Ultra Power Hand Mixer ($39.99, Walmart), move the mixer around the bowl to evenly beat all of the mixture.
Step 5: Beat to Stiff, Glossy Peaks
Continue beating on high speed until the sugar dissolves and stiff, glossy peaks form. When you lift the beaters, the tips will stand straight up. The mixture should also feel smooth when you rub it between your fingers; you shouldn't be able to feel any sugar granules.
Test Kitchen Tip: Beading is a common problem for pie meringues and is caused by undissolved sugar. So be sure to beat until the sugar dissolves.
Step 6: Spread Meringue Over Filling
Quickly spread the meringue over the hot pie filling. Spread the meringue to the edge of the pie pastry to seal it and prevent it from shrinking as it bakes. The hot filling helps cook the meringue from underneath and prevents weeping.
Test Kitchen Tip: If you find weeping to be a problem with meringue pies, try making the meringue before the filling so it sets slightly before being used.
Step 7: Curl Peaks and Bake
For an impressive presentation, use a spoon to swirl and twist the meringue as you spread it. Those tips will get slightly browner during baking, which not only looks pretty but adds a little sweet crunch to your pie.
Bake the pie as directed until the meringue is a golden brown. Let the pie cool for an hour on a wire rack, and then refrigerate for 5 to 6 hours before serving.
How to Make Meringue: Our Pro Tips
Now you have the basics of how to make meringue for pie, but because this fluffy topper can be tricky, we've got a few additional tips that can help you avoid some of the most common meringue mishaps.
- Don't skip the standing time. Egg whites should stand at room temperature 30 minutes before beating to achieve the best volume.
- Use a large bowl made of copper, stainless steel, or glass. Make sure bowls, beaters, and other utensils are extra clean and dry. Oil and other residues prevent the egg whites from beating properly.
- Small beads of moisture can form on the surface of the baked meringue, but you can prevent meringue from beading (or weeping) by being careful not to overbake it and by making sure all sugar is completely dissolved in the mixture.
How to Make Individual Meringues
Although it's hard to beat a fluffy meringue topping swirled on top of a pie, there are other ways to incorporate meringue in your baking. If you're making individual desserts, like mini pies or jars of fruit crisp, you can top each one with sky-high meringue. Here are two ways to do it.
Spread the meringue into a 1/2-inch-thick rectangle on a foil-lined baking sheet. Use the back of a spoon to add swirls, which will brown more and give your meringue extra crunch. Brown the meringue by broiling 4 to 5 inches from the heat for 30 to 60 seconds, or use a culinary torch like the EurKitchen Butane Culinary Kitchen Torch ($19.99, Amazon). Once it's browned, you can scoop portions onto individual desserts, or serve your meringue family-style and let everyone add their own dollop.
If you'd rather make smaller meringue portions, spoon the meringue into eight to 10 dollops on a baking sheet lined with foil. Brown by broiling 4 to 5 inches from the heat for 30 to 60 seconds, or use a kitchen torch to brown each meringue separately. If you decide to use your broiler and the tops of each meringue brown too quickly, move the baking sheet down so it's farther from the heat. Then use the individual meringues to top mini desserts like our Cherry-Thyme Crisps.
Once you get the hang of how to make meringue for pie, try experimenting with other recipes. You can try your hand at an airy, gorgeous pavlova recipe or work on mastering how to make meringue cookies. No matter how you use it, a meringue will always make even ordinary desserts look stunning and taste indulgent.