Meringue Rules of Engagement & how not to break them

I recently made a rhubarb meringue pie (post coming soon). I had the general idea of how to whip up a meringue, but admittedly it had been a while. For some reason, once I had already combined all the ingredients and started beating, I decided to review the process to make sure I was on track. First Mistake! Look BEFORE you start. From here I came across a great list of tips and tricks to make the perfect meringue over at What’s Cooking America. I paused the beating to review the list and realize that I had broken almost every single rule. Despite this and probably thrice the usual amount of beating time, I did product a suitable meringue, albeit could have been taller.

Please read this BEFORE even starting your pie and do not do what I did!

Keys to Success How not to do it
Age of Eggs: Use eggs that are at least 3-4 days old
I used today’s eggs!Older eggs have thinner whites and whip up quicker and to a greater volume than fresh eggs with thick whites. But don’t use too old, because the meringue might fall quicker. Using store bought eggs will help avoid this issue.
Weather: Avoid egg white meringues on a rainy or really humid day I live in Seattle. End of story.
Separating Eggs: cold eggs separate easier.Even the smallest amount of egg yolk or fat (like oil, butter, oil on your skin) might wreck your meringue. The yolksand white of a cold egg stick together more. I did separate the whites correctly, by cracking the egg and transfer yolk back and forth between the cracked halves allowing the white to flow/plop into the bowl but fished out a piece of shell with my fingers (yes they were clean but still may introduce oil).
Temperature: Beat whites at room temperature. Takes about 30 minutes to warm up after being in fridge. My eggs had been in the fridge since I grabbed from nest box in the morning . What’s the impact? A room temperature egg white will increase up to 8 times its volume!
Utensils: Use an immaculately clean and dry glass or stainless steel bowls. This is THE only step I got right, apparently out of pure luck. Plastic bowls might have remnants of oil. Use an electric mixer going at a good clip (medium high). I cannot imagine doing one by hand…. Also, meringues do not like moisture.
Sugar: Add sugar at the very end after soft white peaks have started to form.
I dumped all of mine in about 30 seconds after starting to beat my egg whites. Adding the sugar at this point essential doubles or triples your whipping time to achieve a foam. Gradually add it in as well, continue to beat as you do. You can use superfine sugar to help speed up the process as well. It dissolves faster. I added an extra egg white because some of my eggs are small, but didn’t increase the amount of sugar. You need somewhere between 2 tablespoons to a ¼ cup of sugar per egg white. More sugar will make it harder to the touch when done.
Time: once you start a whipping up the eggs whites do not stop. I stopped to read the list and of course this tip was towards the very bottom. Eek! Another reason to not do by hand… no breaks! The longer you beat the stiffer the eggs whites. Towards the very end you can pause quickly to check for stiffness. Turn the mixer upside down (stop the mixer beforehand). Egg whites should stand up on the beaters.
Baking: Bake at 325 for 20-30 minutes, ideally on a warm filling. I did 350F for about the same amount of time. Seemed “ok” but this is one of many meringue infractions.
Storing: Best to just eat the day of…. I stored in the fridge after the initial eating. It did ok, started to collapse and get little beads of liquid on top. Consider you filling and if it needs to be refrigerated….

Even though I managed to pull out a meringue despite violating nearly every rule, next time I will follow the rules and probably save myself time, increase my heavenly foam output and avoid pie remorse….

Wondering what a meringue is anyway? It’s basically egg foam. Beating prompts the protein in the egg whites to unfold, forming films to trap the air, and the sugar serves to stiffen the foam.

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