Last Updated on July 22, 2022
Is meringue safe to eat? We are asked this question a lot! But, with our in-depth explanations, you’ll be able to confidently say yes or no.
The risks involved with eating bad meringue are quite high. This makes it even more important to know when meringue is safe to eat and exactly why. So, let’s get right to it!
What Is Meringue?
Meringue is an extremely popular and even relatively old type of dessert in patisserie. However, it has a few different types, meanings, and even functions. So, let’s have a look at each. Do not skip this part as it will ultimately help you understand the answer to “Is meringue safe to eat?”
Meringues are most commonly known as being a fluffy white mixture, almost like fluffed marshmallow spreads or toppings. And that is ultimately what they are.
This is a mixture of beaten egg whites with sugar. Now, there are many different kinds of these fluffy meringues. Each is unique in the way that the sugar is incorporated. We will get more into detail on this later, but this is ultimately what will make a meringue safe to eat as-is or not.
Fluffy white meringues can be used as toppings for many desserts. A lemon meringue pie is a great example. It has some whipped meringue on top that is burnt to give the dish a more smoky flavor.
However, the same ingredient can be incorporated into recipes to help provide them with a specific texture. A well-known example is macarons or macaroons. These baked treats are made with almond flour and a whipped meringue mixture.
Then, you also get baked meringues. These are unique on their own. The fluffy mixture is piped or shaped onto a baking tray. Then, it gets baked on a very low heat which ultimately causes it to dry out. You are left with tasty snacks or cute garnishes. However, larger-shaped baked meringues create pavlovas. These traditional Christmas desserts are topped with whipped cream and fresh berries.
Different Types Of Meringue
Now, there are many different types of meringues. But three main types exist today and are most often used. This includes a Swiss meringue, French meringue, and Italian meringue.
As we have mentioned, all of these differ in the way the sugar is incorporated. But, all of them can ultimately be used in the same way. Some may just not be safe to eat.
Swiss meringue is made using a combination of egg whites and granulated sugar.
First, the ingredients are combined into a heatproof bowl. Then, it is placed over a double boiler and slowly heated while mixing the ingredients at a low speed. Once the sugar has dissolved, the speed is increased and the mixture is beaten.
It is ready and done once the mixture becomes glossy and has formed stiff peaks.
This method allows you to cook the egg whites while making the meringue.
Making a French meringue involved beating egg whites until they become foamy. Then, while the mixer is running at a medium speed, add 1 tablespoon of sugar at a time. Wait roughly 10-15 seconds between each addition. This allows the sugar to dissolve.
This meringue is the simplest of them all. But, the egg whites are not ever exposed to heat and therefore remain uncooked.
Italian meringue is often most used in professional kitchens. This meringue is made by adding a hot simple syrup (melted sugar mixture) into whipped egg whites.
By slowly adding the hot syrup to the raw egg whites, you are cooking the eggs while creating the meringue.
Is Meringue Safe To Eat?
So, is meringue safe to eat? You may have already come to the conclusion yourself, but just to say it loud and clear, not all meringues are safe to eat.
It depends entirely on whether or not the egg whites have been cooked or not. As you can see from the descriptions we have provided above, only two of the three most common types of meringues are cooked.
Swiss meringue is made over a double boiler. So, the egg whites are cooked as they are being whipped to create a thick fluffy mixture.
For a Swiss meringue, as we have described, the hot simple syrup cooks the raw egg whites while they are being beaten.
Ultimately, a French meringue (that is only a mixture of eggs and sugar) is never cooked. No heat is applied during any stage of the process, making the eggs unsafe to eat.
How about baked meringues (meringue kisses or pavlova)?
Because baked meringues are exposed to heat for a long period (albeit at a low temperature) it is essentially still dried out. This kills most types of bacteria that could be present in raw eggs.
So, if your baked meringues are made using Swiss or Italian meringues, they are already automatically safe. You can even say that they have been cooked twice!
And, if you used a French meringue to make baked meringues with, it will be safe once the mixture has dried out completely! That being said, we still highly recommend only using Italian and Swiss meringue.
What happens if you eat raw or unsafe meringue?
The main reason we get the question “Is meringue safe to eat?” is because people want to know whether or not they can get sick from the eggs. If the meringue you use and eat is never heat-treated, it isn’t safe to eat.
The raw beaten egg whites can contain dangerous bacteria such as salmonella. This strain can cause salmonellosis, which essentially causes a type of food poisoning. but, before you think you can take it on, the risks involved could be deadly.
Sure, symptoms can be mild such as getting cramps, nausea, and a slight fever. But, it can also cause diarrhea which can, in turn, cause dehydration.
Always rather be safe than sorry when it comes to raw perishable ingredients.
We hope that you have no further doubts on this topic. Is meringue safe to eat? The answer is a resounding yes, but only if it has been cooked or baked.
If you still have any questions for us, let us know in the comments below and we will get back to you with our expertise.
Read more about How Long Do Meringues Last?
Do you have to cook a meringue to eat it?
It is highly recommended that you should cook your meringues before eating them as is. Otherwise, you may risk getting infected with salmonella in the raw whipped egg whites.
Is it safe to eat whipped egg white?
The only time it is safe to eat whipped egg whites is if they have been cooked. This can either be in a bowl over low heat (like over a double boiler). Or if a hot simple syrup has been mixed into the beaten egg whites.
Does meringue go off?
Meringue is made from eggs. So, long term it won't do so well. Raw uncooked meringue (like French meringue) won't have a nearly as long shelf life as its cooked counterparts. However, the textures of all meringues are likely to become unusable before they actually spoil. Baked and dried meringue is the only shelf-stable product that will last a couple of months.
Can you overdo meringue?
You can overwork a meringue, just like any other whipped product. This will change the consistency of your product which will change the final texture. So, always follow the instructions of a meringue recipe precisely.
Lindy Van Schalkwyk is a culinary specialist with a background in Advanced Cooking, Advanced Pâtisserie, Media Communications and Nutrition. She has gained invaluable experience in the culinary industry having worked in some of the top restaurants in Africa in 2016 and 2017. Her expertise in nutrition has enabled her to develop recipes for special dietary needs. In 2018, Lindy began working in the Food Media industry, focusing on recipe development, recipe writing, food writing and food styling.