This Is The Biggest Mistake You're Making With Whipped Egg Whites

Whipping egg whites is one of those skills that is essential in making many different dishes, especially desserts. Meringue, angel food cake, pavlova, soufflé, and other creations require well-whipped egg whites. Unfortunately, creating perfectly-beaten egg whites can be a little bit tricky. Once you have the technique down, however, you'll be ready to take your baking, literally and figuratively, to a new level.

First, a little science, because it's helpful to understand why egg whites behave the way they do. According to Cooks Illustrated, the foamy meringue produced when egg whites are whipped is the result of air being injected into the whites during the whipping process. The air is trapped in small, but very stable bubbles, thanks to the thick and viscous nature of egg whites. These bubbles form a lattice-like framework. When heat is introduced via baking, the trapped air expands, causing the entire framework to rise.

Don't under- or over-beat your egg whites

How do you avoid the common mistake of under- or over-beating egg whites? First, be patient. Whipping egg whites takes longer than you might think — up to ten minutes or more, according to Kitchn. A stand mixer will produce the most even results. Different recipes call for various states of firmness as characterized by the stiffness of their peaks: Soft, firm, and stiff. You will need to stop every so often to see what state your peaks are in.

On Martha Stewart's Kitchen Conundrums YouTube series, chef Thomas Joseph advises starting at a very low speed. This creates smaller bubbles, which are more stable than larger air pockets that are produced by starting at a high speed. Once the egg whites look "sudsy," it's time to up the speed, which will create more volume.

Joseph says that after a few minutes, check your peaks. Soft peaks will "flop over" and lose their shape. Whip a few more minutes if you want firm peaks. Firm peaks have more structure but still curve slightly. For stiff peaks, beat even longer, until the peaks stand straight up and hold their shape.

Some additional tips for perfect peaks: Always start with a bowl completely clean of detergent residue or oils, and start with room temperature egg whites (via Fine Cooking). Once you've mastered the art of whipped egg whites, you'll be ready to take your baking to new heights.