Though cold egg whites will whip, you will get greater volume out of eggs that are at room temperature. Setting eggs out roughly half an hour before you plan to whisk them will do the job. If you have a time crunch on your hands, set the eggs in a bowl of warm (not hot!) water for 5-10 minutes.
The absolute best bowl you can use is a deep copper pot. The copper creates a special chemical reaction that will create almost foolproof, glossy high peaks. Don't own a copper bowl? Don't fret! A glass or ceramic bowl will do just fine, as will the metal bowl of a stand mixer. However, ensure any bowl you use is grease-free! The egg whites will absorb any oils they come into contact with, and the dense oils will keep the peaks from forming as they should.
Using a handheld mixer, eggbeater or stand mixer, begin to whisk the eggs at a low speed until they're frothy. Once they're frothy, gradually increase the speed. It is best to start slow, as an overwhipped egg white will collapse and liquefy. While the eggs whip, you can add an acid to help achieve higher peaks. For meringues, you would generally add 1/8 teaspoon for every 2 eggs being whipped. For other purposes, add double the amount (1/8 teaspoon per 1 egg).
Once your egg whites are fluffy, stop whipping immediately! Overbeating will cause the egg whites to dry out, collapse, liquefy etc. If the egg whites are fluffed, you have done your job. Use them immediately so they don't have a chance to settle.
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