Meringue, made from whipped egg whites and sugar, is light, fluffy and delicious. Many traditional meringue recipes rely upon uncooked egg whites in the final product, posing a safety risk. You can make or purchase safe meringues, ranging from meringue cookies to meringue-topped pies.
Risks and Dangers
Uncooked meringues made with raw egg whites may contain salmonella bacteria, which cause salmonellosis. Symptoms include diarrhea, cramps and fever. When present, salmonella is typically found in the egg yolk, but whites are not considered safe. Eggs must be pasteurized or cooked to 160 F to kill salmonella. Purchased meringues from bakeries and grocery stores are cooked, baked or pasteurized and do not pose a risk.
Meringue cookies and other baked meringues require no special safety measures. Beat egg whites with sugar, adding lemon juice or cream of tartar if you like. Pipe or spoon your meringue as desired and bake. Any recipe that calls for baking at moderate heat, around 350 F, for at least 15 minutes will reach a safe temperature.
Pasteurized Egg Whites
Pasteurized dried egg whites offer a safe alternative to fresh egg whites. Pasteurization heats the egg very quickly, then cools it to kill bacteria. Combine powdered egg whites with water and sugar, then beat. It may take longer to achieve the high, light texture of a good meringue with powdered whites. You can eat meringues made with pasteurized egg whites raw without risk of salmonella.
Prepare a safe meringue by whisking together egg whites and sugar in a heat-safe mixing bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk, allowing the meringue to heat gently, until the egg whites reach 160 F. Remove from the heat and add cream of tartar. Continue beating until the meringue has the desired texture.