Contents
Cream of Tartar vs. Lemon Juice or Vinegar
Whipping Up Egg Whites
The Comparison
   
See Also:
About Eggs
- How to Crack & Separate
 Whipping Up Egg Whites
A step-by-step how to whip egg whites and comparison of not using and using cream of tartar as a stablizer.

Egg whites are particular. So make sure you have the time for the recipe. Once you start a given recipe, entailing whipped egg whites, continue it straight through and finish it off. Don't stop halfway to take a break. After you have finished whipping the egg whites, use them immediately, because they release their water content and start to slowly deflate within 5 - 6 minutes; otherwise, they won't cooperate with you and you won't get a good end result. Lastly, forget about trying to re-whip them, because it doesn't work; you won't be able to whip them up to their original maximum volume and stability.

 Cream of Tartar vs. Lemon Juice or Vinegar
When you're ready to whip your egg whites, add an acid to them such as cream of tartar, lemon juice or vinegar, usually about 1/4 teaspoon (of either acids) for every 2 whites. I prefer using cream of tartar, because it is flavourless, which is ideal to use. Lemon juice and vinegar, on the other hand, will leave their taste in the whites and you might not want this.

Egg whites need an acid to bind and hold them together. Without an acid, they will separate during whipping and then they will be hard to incorporate into your recipe, or on their own (meringues). Cream of tartar also prevents the whipped egg whites from releasing their water content, giving you more time to work with them, if needed. If you've ever whipped egg whites without any acid, you will have noticed that within a minute or two after being whipped, that water had developed in the bottom of the bowl and that the egg whites are floating over it. You don't want to add this water to your recipe because it will alter the recipe and will not produce a good cake or finished product. Whereas, if you had added a bit of cream of tartar, the eggs would have started to release their water content after 5 - 6 minutes instead, of their whipping, thus giving you a bit more time, just in case, with the recipe.

You can use a copper bowl instead, without the need of having to add cream of tartar, lemon juice or vinegar. The copper bowl (material) releases a natural chemical that helps to stabilize egg whites.
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 Whipping Up Egg Whites
Add the cream of tartar all at once into the bowl containing the egg whites; don't worry about clumps when it comes to the cream of tartar. Set your mixer on low, to break apart the whites and make working with them easier, and then beat for about 5 - 7 seconds. Then increase the speed to the highest setting and start moving the mixer in a number 8 pattern, making sure to beat all of the eggs whites. Continue beating until the whites start to hold themselves around the beaters. At this point, you will notice that the egg whites will leave traces of the beaters in the whites; continue beating until the whites become stiff. How can you tell when they're stiff? If you raise the beaters out of the bowl, the beaters will leave a rounded peak in the egg whites' mass, which won't move or collapse. The attachments will also easily hold a good amount of the egg whites on them. Lastly, if you turn the bowl upside down, the whites will cling onto the bowl and won't slide out.
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 The Comparison
Without an acid, just egg whites at room temperature.
Adding an acid, cream of tartar; egg whites at room temperature.
4 unwhipped egg whites in bowl.
4 unwhipped egg whites in bowl, with 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar.
Slightly beaten egg whites, about 7 - 10 seconds.
Slightly beaten egg whites, about 10 - 15 seconds.
Whipping egg whites for about 20 seconds, though they are still runny and don't cling well to beaters.
Whipping egg whites for about 20 seconds, though they are still runny and don't cling well to a knife.
After 30 seconds or so, egg whites cling onto the beaters. Whites are grainy and foamy with large bubbles.
After 30 seconds or so, egg whites cling onto the beaters. Whites are smooth and foamy, but with tiny bubbles.
Here's where you can see the drastic difference between using an acid or not.
A closer look at the side of the bowl: the whites become grainy as they are separating.
A closer look at the side of the bowl: the whites hold themselves closer together and aren't separating.
As a whole mass, the whites are grainy and jagged.
As a whole mass, the whites are smooth and dense.
After a minute or so, the whites become frothy and lose their thick density. After a minute, or so, the whites still maintain their appearance and density.
After 2 minutes, the whites start to deflate, release their water content and start to float on it.
After 5 minutes, only then do the whites start to release their water.
Without the addition of an acid, the whites are frothy, grainy and have large bubbles. They will break up easily when you try to use them.
By adding cream of tartar (an acid) the whites are smooth, dense and have tiny bubbles. Having a dense characteristic that holds itself well, you can manipulate the whites easily in your recipe
        
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