How to make the perfect meringue
Creating the perfect meringue for your holiday pie is a form of art. It involves precision, practice and patience.
For a seemingly simple topping—after all, it contains just three ingredients—meringue is not something that can be easily whipped up by the novice baker. Temperatures must be exact, equipment needs to be scrupulously clean and the technique takes some getting used to. This holiday season, impress your guests (and yourself!) by creating the perfect meringue topping to complete your beautiful homemade pies.
Step 1: Gather your ingredients
The easiest part of the process is getting your ingredients ready to go. You’ll need egg whites, sugar and a dash of pure vanilla extract. The egg whites need to be at room temperature, and the sugar should be super-fine. For every egg white, you’ll need one-quarter cup of sugar. Vanilla extract is optional, but it does provide for a sweeter-tasting meringue.
Step 2: Prepare to make the meringue
Place egg whites and sugar in mixing bowl. Whisk together until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside. Find a pot or pan that the mixing bowl can tightly fit in. Boil about an inch of water in the pan, then reduce to a simmer. Once simmering, place the bowl of egg whites and sugar over simmering water. Constantly stir until the egg whites and sugar are no longer transparent — this should take about five minutes. Check the temperature a few times during the five minutes; it should not go higher than 160 degrees.
Step 3: Whisk, whisk, whisk!
Place the mixing bowl back onto mixer and begin whisking on medium speed. Add the vanilla about halfway through. The meringue is done once stiff peaks have formed. You can whisk by hand if you don’t have a mixer, but it will take longer and it does require some strength, so be prepared!
Useful tips for making meringue
- The mixing bowl should be as clean as possible. If there are any remnants of grease, the egg whites will not form stiff peaks.
- Egg whites take about 30 minutes to warm to room temperature. Separate the cold whites from the yolks, then set aside for 30 minutes.
- Make sure no yolks get into the mixture. We recommend separating one egg at a time in a small bowl and then transferring to the mixing bowl once the egg is cleanly separated.
- Use eggs that are three to four days old. Older egg whites whip more easily than fresher ones do, since they’re thinner.
- Weather matters. Make the meringue on a dry, sunny day. If humidity is in the air, the meringue won’t be as stiff.
- Again, be as clean as possible. Bowls, utensils and even your fingers contain grease, so avoid touching the sugar or egg whites and make sure everything that comes in contact with the meringue is grease-free.