Recently I was watching a television show where a so-called chef (actor playing one) recommended whirring eggs in a blender before adding them to a recipe. This just seemed crazy to me. The reason given was that they wanted them “foamy”. But all the old-wives’ logic that I have lodged in my brain screamed: WRONG.
Eggs get tough and rubbery if they are handled rough. This means, don’t whir them in a blender, and don’t cook them on high heat. You don’t want to eat rubber eggs. Yuck.
Eggs have three distinct parts: shell, white and yolk. The white is water and protein (90% /10%). The yolk is water, fat and protein. (74%/11.8%/12.8%)
If you want a lot of foam, you can separate the white and the yolk. Egg whites will turn into a lovely foam if you whip them long enough (even better if you add a little cream of tartar, a few drops of vinegar or lemon juice — the addition of acid helps to smooth out and lengthen the protein molecules, to make them stronger). Room temperature egg whites fluff up better than chilled ones. There is a very fine line between beaten stiff (so that you can pull out the whisk and you see Alpine mountain peaks) and beaten dry (when they still make mountain peaks, but you’ve beaten the hell out of them and they’ve broken their will to live.) Over-beaten egg whites develop a grainy quality, and instead of being glistening like a fresh dew drop, they will be dull and listless. Their texture is just wrong, and if one is making a souffle or a sponge cake (from scratch) the trapped air bubbles won’t be as strong, and are more likely to fail in baking. (Spoiler alert: a deflated souffle, or a lopsided cake.)
By whipping the eggs, the chemistry behind it, is that you are really untangling the protein molecules. They bump around into each other, and the proteins uncurl exposing the (previously) protected sticky amino acids. These lock together and trap air bubbles between the bonds which keeps the air bubbles from easily popping or escaping. But these bonds become weak with too much bump action.
This all egg white whipping works best in a very clean metal or glass bowl with no fat residue (which is why plastic is out. Plastic attracts fat molecules. No matter how much you clean the bowl, there will still be a fat residue on the surface).
Copper bowls are the best choice, but that’s all about another chemical reaction. Copper ions migrate from the bowl into the egg whites, and forms conalbumin…blah blah blah. Not going into that right now.
Fat will block the egg whites from trapping air bubbles — which is why trying to make “fluffy” whole eggs is just crazy. It makes no sense, especially scientifically. The fats from the egg yolk get in the way. The truth is, even a teeny-tiny, small speck of egg yolk left in the white while separating the two will keep an egg white from ever achieving “stiff peaks”. Doesn’t take much.
Which is where the old wives recommendations in a multitude of old cookbooks comes in. The books from the late 1800’s though much of the 1900’s were always concerned with the “tenderness” of a cooked egg so the instructions were repeated, consistently: no salt; barely beating; and, low heat. The old recipes recommended barely whisking a whole egg, until the white and yolk blended evenly. Other recipes call for no mixing of the two, just break the yolk. There are lots of cooking science reasons for this.
I’d rather listen to the old wives, who probably cooked more eggs than I will ever will cook in my lifetime — and heed their warnings, than pay attention to some script writer, or some blog post that says “throw it in the blender and wizz away..” Nope. Not going there.
Now if you really want to get a really fluffy whole eggs, beat the egg whites until you get stiff peaks, then carefully fold a broken egg yolk into the mixture until blended, and then slip the whole thing into a pan with an ample amount of melted butter to make a beautiful fluffy omelette (souffle omelette), or to make light airy scrambled eggs. Or even, fold some finely grated cheese to the beaten whites and slide those into the waiting heated pan, press a spoon in the center to make and indentation, and the carefully deposit an unbroken yolk into the center of the egg white cloud. Cover, and cook on a low heat until the yolk is just slightly clouded over.
There are lots of recipes to experiment with that use a stiff beaten egg white, and the egg yolk. There should be no egg recipes that involve beating the crap out of an egg in a blender.
Never use a blender to beat eggs. Use a fork (for lightly blended eggs), a whisk, or if you have a lot of eggs, a hand mixer. And, I don’t care what some websites say, or what some actress playing a chef in a sitcom says — they’re wrong.
Thank you for the info (beautifully expressed) especially the chemistry of aerating egg whites. Hooray for the wisdom of old wives!
Fantastic read. Thank you!
Fantastic read. Thank you!
I’m curious if you ever actually tried the recipe with the blender? I think it would be a pretty easy experiment that you didn’t even seem to try before you debunked it based on your understanding of science. That’s not a very scientific approach at all to not even perform a single experiment.
Of course I try everything. I have blended eggs, as well as over-whipped them with a hand blender. I have over-whipped them by hand, too, just to see what happened. First, when cooked they are NOT FLUFFY. The mangled egg proteins can’t hold together right.
What happens is that you fracture the egg proteins. Which gives them a grainy-mouth-feel. They are flat, and chewy, and tough. If you WANT that, go ahead, be by guest. But, that is sort of the opposite of what most people want — fluffy, tender, and smooth — for blended eggs. An egg lightly whisked (three or four strokes, at most) with a pinch of cream of tartar, cooked on medium to medium-low heat in some melted butter (unsalted, of course); allowed to just begin coagulate (cook, turn opaque) then pushed, gently, to the center of the pan, will create fluffy, delightful mounds of fluffy and moist scrambled egg. Try those compared to beated-and-battered eggs in a blender, and you’ll see what I’m trying to describe.
The reason to use an acid (lemon juice or cream of tartar) is to help the proteins lengthen and bond, which makes fluffy eggs. Blending in a blender doesn’t help those egg proteins lengthen and bond…it destroys them. I guess if you hate eggs… it makes sense to abuse them…
Yo! This whole thing was some of the best reading I’ve done in a while. Do you write for a living?
You can find my cookbook (about eggs) at toomanyeggs.com There is a free .pdf you can download.
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Explain how Waffle House uses a blender and they are so fluffy all the time.
baking powder probably
My wife, while getting dental implants, was on a liquid diet for several months. One of the things I made for her was “liquid” eggs. Just eggs with another 1/3 portion of milk and a little salt blended in a Vitamix. I put them in cold and blended until they were 140 degrees. They tasted great, though they certainly were not “foamy” (I didn’t want them to be).