Everything You Need to Know to Prevent Meringue Pie Topping from Weeping
Whipping a bowl of egg whites to stiff, glossy peaks for a meringue pie is a magical process. But it's a pain if you go through all the time and effort of making that gorgeous fluffy topping for your vanilla cream pie or chocolate meringue pie only to experience weeping meringue. If you aren't familiar with the term, "weeping," it refers to the layer of moisture that forms between the meringue and filling after chilling. It's a top complaint about homemade meringue pies because no one wants a slice of sad, watery pie. Good news for you: our BH&G Test Kitchen has more than a few tricks up their sleeves to prevent weeping meringue after years of practice. Here you'll learn what makes meringue weep as well as how to keep meringue from weeping.
How to Keep Meringue from Weeping in 3 Steps
We rely on this meringue for pie recipe for the best results, but you can use any favorite meringue recipe. Follow these three easy steps to help prevent that unwanted moisture from building on your meringue pie:
- Beat the mixture of thickened cornstarch and water into the egg whites to bind and stabilize the liquid in the meringue (and keep it from seeping out).
- Cook the filling for the full 2 minutes on the stove top so the cornstarch thickens completely and doesn't start breaking down and "leaking" during chilling.
- Spread the meringue on the filling while the filling is HOT. This heats (and seals) the underside of the meringue so it cooks as thoroughly as the top (which is exposed to the heat of the oven).
More Tips to Stop Meringue from Weeping
Still concerned you won't be able to stop meringue from weeping? We feel you. Here are some extra measures to help prevent weeping and keep meringue from shrinking.
- Make meringue pie on dry, low-humidity days.
- Don't overbake your meringue! Overbaking causes the egg whites to shrink and squeeze out small droplets of moisture. Always make sure to check on your pie at the minimum baking time.
- Undissolved sugar in the egg whites can also cause weeping. To make sure the sugar gets dissolved, mix the egg whites and sugar at a low speed until the mixture feels perfectly smooth with no graininess when you rub a little between your thumb and fingers. You can also try using superfine/caster sugar ($10, Sur La Table); it dissolves more quickly than regular granulated sugar.
- Always prepare the meringue before preparing the pie filling so it's ready to spread while the filling is still hot. The heat from the filling will "cook" the meringue onto the filling and make it less likely to leak or shrink.
- Seal the meringue completely to the edge of the pie so it touches the crust.
Test Kitchen Tip: If you use eggs that are pasteurized in the shell (which destroys salmonella bacteria), you could bake your meringue for 15 minutes until it's browned without having to worry about getting to the safe temperature for eggs (165°F). The less time the meringue spends in the oven, the less likely you are to overbake the meringue and cause weeping.
Why Meringue Pies Weep
As it turns out, undercooking and overcooking can both cause weeping meringue and unwanted moisture on top of your pie (aka beading). Overcooking meringue causes those little sugary drops of moisture on top of baked meringues. It is difficult to prevent this, as most recipes now bake longer at lower temperatures to cook the egg whites enough to eliminate any risk of salmonella. Our Test Kitchen recommends following the recipe, beating, and baking as written. The watery layer between the meringue and the filling (weeping) is usually caused by undercooking. This is where it is important to put your meringue onto hot filling so it can begin cooking right away.
Once your pie is finished, store it correctly by covering and chilling it so the meringue will be as beautiful as it was right out of the oven. Now that you have this newfound weeping meringue knowledge, you can get back to the kitchen to start baking all the delicious cream pie recipes from scratch with less worry.