Can you eat meringue raw?

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “Can you eat meringue raw?”. We will further elaborate on the risks of eating raw meringue and some safe ways to enjoy meringue. 

Can you eat meringue raw?

No, you can not eat meringue raw unless they are pasteurized. Meringues are made up of raw eggs that pose a severe risk of Salmonella infection. 

Many meringue dishes include raw egg whites in the final product, which pose a health hazard. They can be made safe for consumption by cooking them or using pasteurized eggs.

Meringue 

An egg white consists of approximately 89 % of water and 10 % of protein. Proteins, just like amino acids, have both hydrophilic and hydrophobic parts. When whisking an egg white, the opened protein strands gather to the surface of the water and air bubbles; the hydrophilic parts will move towards the water and the hydrophobic parts towards the air bubbles. The end result is a net-like structure where the protein network has bound the water as a thin layer around the air bubbles. This network provides the meringue structure (1).

Meringue is an egg white froth used in desserts like pie topping, cake coating and frosting. 

Meringue is prepared by whipping isolated egg whites together into a foam and mixing sugar, in either a crystalline or syrup form, the quantity of which defines whether it is soft or hard. A little quantity of acid, like cream of tartar, is added at the beginning. 

Risks of eating raw meringue

Raw meringues prepared with raw egg whites may consist of a bacterium, Salmonella, which is the cause of salmonellosis

Raw or undercooked eggs and foods containing them have been implicated in about 80 percent of those Salmonella enteritidis outbreaks in which a food source was identified. Eggs can become contaminated with the pathogen before laying and before the shell is formed. Pathogens carried in fecal material or dirt may also contaminate the shell exterior and then move through cracks or shell pores to the inner surface. The pathogen can be found in the yolk or egg white (2).

Symptoms of salmonellosis are diarrhea, cramps and/or fever. The bacteria are commonly present in the egg yolk, while egg whites are not regarded as safe. Infants, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable, and death from salmonellosis may occur in these high-risk population groups (2).

Eggs should be pasteurized or cooked well at 160℉ to destroy the bacteria. Meringues bought from bakeries and supermarkets are usually pasteurized, cooked or baked and hence don’t present a risk.

Safe ways to consume meringues  

Baked meringues

Baked meringues usually demand no particular safety practices. 

Egg whites are beaten with sugar, lemon juice or cream of tartar is added. Meringue is then spooned as preferred and baked. Any recipe that demands baking at mild heat, about 350℉, for a minimum of 15 mins will reach a safe temperature.

Pasteurized egg whites

Pasteurized parched egg whites present a secure substitute for raw egg whites. Pasteurization is characterized by heating the eggs very quickly, then cooling them to destroy bacteria. 

Pasteurization methods include freeze drying, hot air, hot water, infra-red, and atmospheric steam, microwave heating and radiofrequency heating. According to the recommendations of the United States Department of Agriculture, pasteurization of egg yolk, egg white and filtered liquid whole egg using heat should be done at a  minimum temperature and holding time of 60 °C for 6.2 min, 55.6 °C for 6.2 min and 60 °C for 3.5 min, respectively. Non-thermal technologies, such as irradiation, are also available. According to a study, the optimum dose for treating liquid egg white and yolk without affecting the chemical and sensory properties is 3 kGy of gamma irradiation under room temperature followed by storage at 4 -1 °C (3). 

Powdered egg whites are combined with water and sugar, then beaten. 

It may require more time to acquire the high, creamy consistency of a good meringue with powdered whites. You can consume meringues prepared with pasteurized egg whites uncooked without the danger of Salmonella.

Cooked meringue

The safest meringue can be made by combining egg whites and sugar together in a heat-proof mixing bowl on top of a container of parboiling water. 

The batter is whisked, letting the meringue heat slightly till the egg whites attain a temperature of 160℉. It is then removed from the heat and cream of tartar is added. Whipping is resumed until the meringue reaches the desired consistency.

Swiss meringue method

  • Put the egg whites with almost half of the sugar required for the recipe in a large container, blend for some time.
  • Set the bowl in a saucepan on top of (not in) parboiling water.
  • Whip the egg whites for around 3 mins. They should feel hot when touched.
  • Remove the bowl from the parboiling water.
  • With the mixer at moderate speed, resume to whip until the egg whites cool to room temperature and rise little in volume, roughly around 5 mins or less. Avoid overbeating.
  • Fold the meringue into the other components as directed in the recipe.

Chocolate Meringue Pie

Ingredients 

  • One (9 inches) pie crust, baked
  • One cup white sugar
  • Two tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Two tbsp all-purpose flour
  • One pinch salt
  • Two eggs, separated
  • One cup milk
  • One tbsp butter
  • One tsp vanilla extract
  • A quarter cup white sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 400℉

To prepare chocolate custard: In a big saucepan, add one cup of flour, sugar, salt and cocoa powder. 

Blend thoroughly, then add in egg yolks and milk. Mix till all ingredients are perfectly blended. Cook on medium flame, mixing continuously until the batter has the texture of pudding.

Add vanilla extract and butter or margarine to the custard. Add batter into baked pie shell.

To prepare meringue: In a bowl, beat egg whites till frothy. Slowly add a quarter cup of sugar, resuming to beat until whites rise. Lay meringue over chocolate custard, coating entirely.

Bake in a preheated oven for 5-6 mins to the point the meringue turns golden brown. Refrigerate prior to serving.

How do you store fresh meringues?

Meringues can be stored at room temperature. When stored in an airtight container and kept in a cool, dry place, meringues can remain safe for 14 days. 

Freezing is the most suitable choice if you feel you will not be consuming meringues for some time. When stored in the freezer, they can remain safe for several months.

Other FAQs about Meringue that you may be interested in.

Can you use liquid egg whites for meringue?

Can you make meringue without sugar?

How to store meringue for pavlova?

Conclusion 

In this brief guide, we have provided an answer to the question, “Can you eat meringue raw?”. We have further elaborated on the risks of eating raw meringue and some safe ways to enjoy meringue. 

References 

  1. Vilhunen, Anna-Sofia, Maija Aksela, and Anu Hopia. Learning proteins in the context of molecular gastronomy through higher-order thinking as an activity of fluffy meringue. LUMAT: Int J Math Sci Technol Educ, 2013, 1, 239-244.
  2. Lin, C. T., Roberta A. Morales, and Katherine Ralston. Raw and undercooked eggs: a danger of salmonellosis. Food Rev Nation Food Rev, 1997, 20, 27-32.
  3. Keerthirathne, Thilini Piushani, et al. Reducing risk of salmonellosis through egg decontamination processes. Int j environ res public health, 2017, 14, 335.

Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.