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How to Make Meringue (French Method)

Learn how to make meringue with the easiest meringue making method, French meringue. French meringue is made with only two ingredients and can be made without cream of tartar. This style of meringue is delicate, light and tender.

Stiff meringue on a whisk holding its peak

FRENCH MERINGUE OVERVIEW

  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Techniques Used: Whipping egg whites to stiff peaks

French meringue is the simplest form of all the meringue techniques. It is made simply by beating egg whites with sugar and does not absolutely require cream or tartar or another acidic ingredient.

French meringue, also sometimes referred to as simple meringue, is used frequently for folding into cake batters like chiffon cake and angel food cake to create an incredibly light texture. It can also be piped into various shapes for cookies or dessert shells.

Meringue being whipped with a hand mixer

What is Meringue?

The most basic definition of meringue is egg whites beaten into a foam with sugar to stiff peaks. There are 3 types of meringue- French Meringue, Swiss Meringue, and Italian Meringue. Each type of meringue has its own method and best uses.

Meringue, or a sweetened egg white foam, is used in so many different baking and pastry components. Meringue can be folded into cake batters to lighten them. Meringue can be used as a topping for a pie or tart. Meringue can also be used all on its own as a delicate cookie or an impressive pavlova.

Vanilla Meringue cookies in a bowl

French Meringue Basics

In its most simple form, french meringue is made with only egg whites and granulated or superfine sugar. It is the simplest preparation of all the methods and is the only form that is uncooked. This means it is also the most unstable. 

French meringue is best used for folding into cake batters such as in angel food cake, used to make French macarons, or baked on its own into small preparations like meringue cookies or kisses. It can be used as a topping for a pie, but because it is the least stable I much prefer Italian meringue because it won’t weep as much on the pie. 

Ratios

The ratios of sugar to egg whites varies depending on how the meringue will be used. The lowest sugar ratio used is typically a 1:1 ratio of egg white to sugar by weight. The higher the ratio of sugar the more stable the meringue will be, however, it will taste much more sweet and if baked the texture is more crisp is not as tender and melt-in-your-mouth.

If you do decide to use this preparation fir topping a pie you will want to use a higher ratio of sugar, usually 1:2 egg whites to sugar by weight, to create more stability where as if it is being baked for cookies less sugar can be used because the baking will set the meringue.

Chocolate meringue spooned into a disk

How to Make Meringue (The French Method_

Step 1: Make Superfine Sugar (*optional)

If you do not have access to superfine sugar, or castor sugar, it is best to make your own before utilizing this method. In a food processor process the sugar until it is very fine. This takes about 2 minutes. 

This step is not absolutely necessary, but will help prevent any grittiness in your meringue. 

A spoonful of white granulated sugar

Step 2: Measure Your Ingredients

Depending on your final use for this meringue it may or may not be important to actually weigh your ingredients very accurately.

If you are using your meringue as a topping on a pie then the exact ratios for your meringue aren’t really as important as if you were going to fold it into a cake batter or for macarons.

Separating egg whites and yolks

Step 3: Bring the Egg Whites to Room Temperature

Egg whites will whip to their highest and most stable peaks when they are at room temperature or slightly warm, so it is important to give them time. If you are in a rush, you can put un-cracked eggs in a bowl of warm water for about 5 minutes to take the chill off.

I have also used packaged liquid egg whites to make this foam and they also worked, however because they are pasteurized, I had to beat for much much longer.

Egg whites in a stand mixer

Step 4: Begin by Whipping the Egg Whites

Make sure that the bowl you are using is clean and free from oil and place the egg whites in the bowl. You want to begin by whipping on a low speed which will allow the proteins to unravel and begin forming their network to trap the air bubbles.

It is optional, but a pinch of cream of tartar or a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar are often added here. These acidic ingredients, though not absolutely necessary, will lower the ph and in turn strengthen the proteins and create a more stable meringue.

Stand mixer whipping egg whites

Step 5: Very Slowly Add the Sugar

Once your whites have reached soft peaks, continue mixing on medium speed while adding the sugar in slowly. I add about 1 tablespoon at a time and wait about 15 seconds before the next addition. Not rushing this process is really key to making the mixture stable.

Step 6: Whip to Stiff Peaks

Watch the egg whites carefully and stop beating once you reach stiff peaks. The whites will look glossy and the whites should stand up straight with just a slight bend on the end. See the picture below for how the peaks should look.

Meringue holding its shape off the end of a whisk

If you take the whites too far the gloss will go away and they will start to break down, look dry, and begin separating. If you go this far you need to stop and start over! This is much more difficult to do with the higher ratio of sugar, but it is a little easier to go to far if you are using the 1:1 sugar ratio. The below picture is showing what broken meringue looks like.

Over whipped meringue turned into clumps

Tips for Success

  • If you will be using this French meringue in something that will not be baked, like chocolate mousse, make sure you use pasteurized egg whites.
  • If you will be folding your egg white foam into a cake batter it isn’t absolutely necessary to make the super fine sugar. However, your meringue will be much more stable for other uses if you do so.
  • Egg whites should be at room temperature when whipping them for meringue.

What Can you Make with Simple Meringue?

Stiff meringue on a whisk holding its peak

French Meringue

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

French meringue is the easiest meringue preparation with only two ingredients and just a few steps. This preparation can be used for baked meringues, pie toppings, folded into cake batters and many other uses! 

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups egg whites (from about 9 large eggs, 270 grams)
  • pinch of cream of tartar OR a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar (optional, but helps stabilize)
  • 1 1/3 cups - 2 2/3 cups granulated sugar (270 grams -540 grams)

Instructions

Note regarding sugar quantity: The smaller amount of sugar will create a less stable meringue but one that is more melt-in-your mouth and tender after being baked. The higher quantity of sugar will create a much more stable meringue but one that is more crisp when baked. If utilizing this for a pie topping, opt for the higher quantity so it is less prone to weeping as quickly.

  1. Place the sugar in a food processor and process for about 2 minutes until very fine. This is optional but will make a more stable meringue. If you have access to superfine sugar or castor sugar, that can be used instead.
  2. Separate your egg whites from the yolks and allow the whites to come to room temperature for at least 15 minutes. The yolks can be saved to make lemon curd or pastry cream.
  3. In a very clean large bowl, begin whipping your egg whites on low speed until frothy and soft peaks begin to form. If using, you can add a pinch of cream of tartar or a small amount of lemon juice or vinegar at this point.
  4. Slowly add in your superfine sugar, about 1 TBSP at a time, while continuing to whip on medium speed. Wait about 15 seconds between each addition. Not rushing this process will make sure your mixture is stable.
  5. Once all of the sugar has been added and the whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks, stop beating.
  6. Use immediately for meringue cookies, macarons, to fold into a cake, or to top a pie.

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Nutrition Information:

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 0

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7 comments on “How to Make Meringue (French Method)”

  1. I always LOVE these posts-I learn so much!!

  2. Me too, great post-fun scientific facts are a brill way to learn the ‘How, why & reasons’ behind every recipe-most importantly teaches which recipe to use for whatever you’re making.
    Tried & tasted the following ‘Angel-Food-Cake’ with berry & ginger sauce, it’s gorgeous!
    Light, cloud-like cake that tastes amazing, especially with the sauce, a slice of Heaven on a plate is my way of describing this delectable cake, try it & prepare to be amazed, delighted & craving for more, as I do…
    Easy to follow step by step & you’ll have this beautiful, billowing, light, airy, every so tasty cake that all the family will love.
    Thanks for sharing, good idea to make two as it won’t last long, everyone will be asking for second helpings!

  3. Can u use lemon extract as stabilizing or a pinch of salt? And if I fold it into my cake batter do I still use the egg yolks?

    • Hi Kathy!

      Lemon extract is really not acidic the way lemon juice or cream of tartar is and it will not stabilize the egg whites. Salt also does not stabilize whites. If you are folding the egg whites into a cake batter you really don’t need to stabilize it because it will be baked immediately. Stabilizing is more important if you are making meringues. As far as the egg yolks, that really depends on the recipe. If the recipe calls for whole eggs, then yes you would mix those into the wet ingredients. But some cakes, like angel food cake, do not use the yolks. Hope that helps!

  4. Pretty helpful. Every other recipe I’ve found, doesn’t bother to even tell you what speed to beat these on! I would give yours 4 stars out 5. Taking off 1 star, since I don’t know if I should be 3 minutes or 10.

  5. Correcting my typos on my review now:

    Pretty helpful. Every other recipe I’ve found, doesn’t bother to even tell you what speed to beat these on! I would give you 4 stars out of 5. Taking off 1 star, since I don’t know if I should beat 3 minutes or 10.

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