The following terms or phrases regularly occur in egg recipes.
Cook until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Baked custard mixtures are done when a metal knife inserted off center comes out clean. The very center still may not be quite done, but the heat retained in the mixture will continue to cook it after you remove it from the oven. Cooking longer may result in a curdled and/or weeping custard. Cooking less time may result in a thickened but not set custard.
Cook until just coats a metal spoon. For stirred custard mixtures, the eggs are cooked to the proper doneness when a thin film adheres to a metal spoon dipped into the custard. The point of coating a metal spoon is 20° to 30° below boiling. Stirred custards should not boil. The finished product should be soft and thickened but not set. Stirred custards will thicken slightly after refrigeration.
Slightly beaten. Beat eggs with a fork or whisk just until the yolks and whites are blended.
Well beaten. Beat eggs with a mixer, blender, beater or whisk until they are light, frothy and evenly colored.
Thick and lemon-colored. Beat yolks with an electric mixer at high speed until they become a pastel yellow and form ribbons when you lift the beater or drop the yolks from a spoon, about 3 to 5 minutes. Although yolks can’t incorporate as much air as whites, this beating does create a foam and is important to airy concoctions such as sponge cakes.
Add a small amount of hot mixture to eggs/egg yolks. When you add eggs or egg yolks to a hot mixture all at once, they may begin to coagulate too rapidly and form lumps. So, stir a small amount of the hot mixture into the yolks to warm them and then stir the warmed egg yolk mixture into the remaining hot mixture. This is called tempering.
Room temperature. Some recipes call for eggs to be at room temperature before you combine the eggs with a fat and sugar. Cold eggs could harden the fat in this type of recipe and the batter might become curdled. This could affect the texture of the finished product. To prevent the curdling, remove eggs from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you use them or put them in a bowl of warm water while you assemble other ingredients. For all other recipes, use eggs straight from the refrigerator.
The following cooking terms apply specifically to egg whites.
Separated. Fat inhibits the foaming of egg whites. Since egg yolks contain fat, recipes sometimes call for the yolks to be separated from the whites. Beating the whites separately allows them to reach their fullest possible volume. It’s easiest to separate the yolks and whites when the eggs are cold, but whites reach their fullest volume if you allow them to stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before beating.
Many inexpensive egg separators are available. To separate eggs, tap the midpoint of the egg sharply with a table knife. Hold the egg over the bowl in which you want the whites and gently pull apart the shell halves. Let the yolk nestle into the cuplike center of the separator and the white will drop through the slots into the bowl beneath. You can use the same process with a funnel.
Drop one egg white at a time into a cup or small bowl and then transfer it to the mixing bowl before separating another egg. This avoids the possibility of yolk from the last egg you separated getting into several whites. Drop the yolk into another mixing bowl if you need it in the recipe, otherwise into a storage container.
– See Storing
Add cream of tartar. Egg whites beat to greater volume than most other foods, including whipping cream, but the air beaten into them can be lost quite easily. To make the foam more stable, add a stabilizing agent such as cream of tartar to the whites. Lemon juice works much the same way.
– See Cream of Tartar
Add sugar, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time. When you make meringues and some cakes, you add sugar to beaten egg whites. Sugar serves to increase the stability of the foam. However, sugar can also retard the foaming of the whites and you must add it slowly so you don’t decrease the volume. Beat the whites until they just begin to get foamy, then slowly beat in the sugar.
– See Meringue
Stiff but not dry. Beat whites with a mixer, beater or whisk just until they no longer slip when the bowl is tilted. (A blender or food processor will not aerate them properly.) If you underbeat egg whites, the finished product may be heavier and less puffy than desired. If you overbeat egg whites, they may form clumps which are difficult to blend into other foods in the mixture and the finished product may lack volume.
Stiff peaks form. Stiff but not dry.
Soft peaks or piles softly. Whites that have been beaten until high in volume but have not reached the stiff peak stage. When you lift the beater, peaks will form and curl over slightly.
Gently folded. When you combine beaten egg whites with other heavier mixtures, handle carefully so you don’t lose the air you’ve beaten into the whites. It’s best to pour the heavier mixture onto the beaten egg whites. Then, using a spoon or rubber spatula, gradually combine the ingredients with a downward stroke into the bowl, followed by an across-up-and-over-the-mixture motion. Come up through the center of the mixture about every three strokes and rotate the bowl as you are folding. Fold just until there are no streaks remaining in the mixture. Don’t stir because this will force air out of the egg whites.