Mastering meringue is something that happens gradually, over time. But if you’re making meringue cooking mistakes, maybe you’re in need of some tips and hacks to help you get there sooner. Only if you observe the mistakes you might be making you can begin to improve yourself. Otherwise, you might repeat them over and over again.
Maybe because they’re only made with two ingredients, eggs and sugar, meringues are deceptively simple. But as with a lot of dishes, the devil (or divine) is in the details. And with the details come the meringue making mistakes. These are the ones you should look out for. Remember, practice plus patience makes perfect, and if you have to start over, keep in mind, it's just eggs and sugar.
After all of this, you should definitely try to make a lemon meringue pie. It's one of my favorites.
9 common meringue cooking mistakes
1. You don’t check the weather
Yeah, you heard that right. Weather matters when you’re making meringues. Specifically, humidity hurts your mixture, because the sugar will absorb more of it from the air. Humidity can also harm your delicate baked meringues.
2. You drop some yolk in
Make sure that you separate the yolks and egg whites with care. Yolks have fat in them and any drop of fat can ruin your meringue. Remember that cold eggs are easier to separate. But the egg whites you will use have to be room temperature. So, after separation, cover them and let them warm up at least half an hour before you beat them. Look at the egg white before dropping it in the bowl, to make sure there are no impurities.
3. You use wet or dirty equipment
Your whisk and bowl should always be clean and dry before you start making the meringue. Once again, any impurities constitute one of the meringue cooking mistakes. Try to use a copper bowl, because it helps the whites produce a fluffier, more stable result.
4. You use the wrong sugar
Sugar molecules help stabilize the egg whites, so this sweetener is very important here, even if it is not very healthy overall. Don’t use granulated sugar, use superfine sugar. You can make one out of the other by processing the granules in a food processor for no more than two minutes.
5. You use the wrong whisk
A standard whisk means so much more work than you have to do. Using a whisk with more tines, like a handheld balloon whisk will help incorporate the air in the meringue mixture so much faster than usual. You can also use a standing mixer for the task.
6. You overwhip it
Your meringue mixture is done when it starts forming peaks. Stop after the egg whites become grainy – that’s a clear sign of overwhipping. If you want to fix this problem, you can try adding another egg white to bring it back. Whip the egg white gently in, but don’t overdo it, or you’ll be back to square one.
7. You pipe too hard
Once you’ve put the meringue mixture in the piping bag, hold the bag at the top and just squeeze lightly so that the mixture doesn’t deflate. Don’t touch the parchment paper with the tip, or your meringues will turn out flat.
8. You cook the meringue too slowly
If the oven temperature is too low and slow, then the meringues might form beads of liquid on the surface. The fix for that is simple: shorter cooking time, higher oven temperature. Just remember that your product might slightly brown.
9. You remove it before or way after it’s done
How do you know when your meringue is rightly baked? There’s a simple test you can do to avoid any meringue cooking mistakes. Lift it off the baking sheet. If the result pulls up easily, then it’s done. If not, keep checking it every 3-4 minutes.
And if you're into meringues, here's a recipe to tame your cravings: