Royal icing, tarts, pavolva, macarons, and icebox cakes—there are so many things you can make using meringue. Fluffy and delicious, it’s no wonder you want to whip up some meringue for your baked goodies. That said, there are uncooked egg whites in meringue, so is meringue safe to eat? What about meringue powder?
Let’s find out!
What is Meringue?
Meringue is a mixture of granulated sugar and beaten egg whites that get whipped together.
When you beat egg whites with granulated or confectioner’s sugar, they can grow to eight times their original volume, giving you plenty of meringue to work with. Plus, the sugar brings out a little sweetness, stabilizes the egg whites, and also keeps the mixture from drying out quickly.
However, you don’t want to pour the sugar in all at once. By pouring in the sugar gradually, you can increase the volume and lightness of your meringue.
The amount of sugar you use depends on the recipe. Some recipes call for a softer meringue, in which you would use less sugar. For harder meringue, like cookies, you use more sugar.
Is Meringue Safe to Eat?
There are many ways to go about making meringue. If you are following a traditional recipe, it may call for raw, uncooked egg whites. However, you don’t have to use uncooked egg whites fresh from the egg. You can find options like meringue powder or use pasteurized egg whites from a carton instead.
Each of these options are safe to eat when baked, but consuming meringue that was made with raw, uncooked egg whites is not safe.
Will Uncooked Meringue Make You Sick?
Yes, there is a chance that consuming uncooked meringue will make you sick. As you may be aware, chicken and chicken eggs (as well as other poultry) often contains a bacteria called salmonella. Should you consume raw or uncooked chicken or eggs, you could get salmonellosis or food poisoning. The symptoms can be mild or severe and range from fever, abdominal cramping, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Most often, salmonella bacteria is present in the yolk, which is why you should never consume uncooked items containing yolk. The white of the egg, though, is also not safe for consumption. In order to eat meringue, the eggs should either be pasteurized or cooked until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees °F (71 degrees °C) to kill off bacteria.
Can You Eat Powdered Meringue Raw?
When you want to make a dessert that requires meringue, you may be hesitant because of the risk of food-borne illnesses. There is a much safer way around that: meringue powder.
Convenient and available in the grocery store, meringue powder increases the safety of meringue by bounds. This product consists of pasteurized egg whites that have been dried and ground into a fine powder.
Meringue powder may also contain:
- Gum arabic (sweetener)
- Calcium sulfate (desiccant)
- Citric acid and cream of tartar (stabilizer)
- Silicon dioxide (keeps the powder from clumping)
Since the eggs in meringue powder have been pasteurized and dried, using the powder for you goods is much safer. There is no chance of getting salmonella from meringue powder, meaning that your royal icing is safe to lick off your fingers after whipping it up.
Is Royal Icing Made with Raw Egg Whites Safe For Consumption?
Raw egg whites, as mentioned above, do not have the same risk of carrying salmonella as the yolk. However, the risk is still there, and since salmonellosis can be incredibly severe, you should not risk it.
Fortunately, there are two ways you can make royal icing for your cookies and cakes without needing to worry about salmonella or other food-borne illnesses.
The substitute for raw egg whites in meringue is either pasteurized egg whites or meringue powder.
How Long Does Meringue Last?
Whether you have whipped up meringue for icing or made meringue cookies, you need to know that raw meringue does not have as long a shelf life as baked meringue. Since raw meringue has uncooked egg in it, the risk of bacteria increases the longer it sits. Also, the water will evaporate from the mixture quickly, leaving you with an unsavory mess.
Generally, raw meringue will last in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Never leave raw meringue out at room temperature for an extended period of time.
If you made Italian meringue where the eggs are cooked, you can store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Baked or dried meringue, also known as bakery meringue, will stay in good condition for about a year. You can also keep baked meringue in an air-tight container for 3 weeks at room temperature.
How Long Does Meringue Powder Last?
If you are like most people, you probably have several ingredients in the cupboard that you only use on rare occasions, like when you decide to make a lemon meringue pie. The good news is that you don’t have to worry about your meringue powder going bad between the holidays. Meringue powder has a long shelf life—about 2 years—when stored somewhere dry, cool, and away from sunlight.
Keep in mind that, while powdered meringue is less likely to make you ill, you should never use it beyond the expiry date. There is still a chance that the ingredients have gone bad.
How to Tell if Meringue is Unsafe to Eat
While your brightly colored meringue cookies may still look perfect to the eye, you should never trust meringue that may be spoiled. Though minimal once cooked, there is always a risk that your meringue can make you sick. Do not even risk tasting potentially bad raw, uncooked meringue, since the uncooked eggs could give you food poisoning.
How do you know meringue has gone bad? Utilize your senses. Sometimes, there may be mold on the meringue. Hard baked meringue is more difficult, but you should examine the texture. When fresh, baked meringue is light, crisp, and slightly sugary. If the meringue is chewy or has a bitter smell or flavor, it has most likely expired.
The Verdict on Meringue
Is meringue safe to eat? That depends on whether it has been cooked and in what form it came. If you are using raw egg whites, your meringue could give you salmonella. In order to make your meringue safer, use either pasteurized egg whites or meringue powder.
Now you’re ready to whip up a delicious pavlova! Just be sure to eat it before it expires.
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No, meringue does not have to be cooked all the time. If you are using meringue powder, than the frosting or icing your make doesn’t need cooking, as there is no risk of salmonella. If you use raw egg whites, however, it is best to bake your dessert prior to eating.
If you are using pasteurized egg white or meringue powder, then yes, meringue is very safe to eat. Even if you have used raw egg whites from fresh eggs in your meringue, it is safe for consumption after it has been baked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F (71 degrees °C).
Unless you are worried about the sugar content of meringue, it’s not bad for you. The only time meringue is potentially unsafe is if you have used uncooked egg whites and eat it raw.
Yes, meringue frosting is safe when made with either meringue powder or pasteurized egg whites. You should avoid raw egg whites for frosting, since they may contain salmonella.