Tip Friday Separating Eggs
Many recipes specifically call for egg whites or yolks.
And many people make egg-white-only dishes to reduce cholesterol.
Whatever your reasons, there are plenty of tips that will help you avoid a painful separation.
So how do you actually separate an egg? I suggest these 3 ways.
Separating by Hand
Set up three bowls. If you’re only separating a couple eggs, you only need two bowls. But if you’re separating many eggs, get another bowl to crack the whole egg into. This way, if you break the yolk, you’ve only lost one egg instead of ruining a whole bowl of whites.
Crack the egg. Crack the egg carefully into the first bowl, taking care not to break the yolk. If you can, you can crack the egg gently, then drop it right into your cupped palm instead — or even crack it in one hand.
If you have trouble with shell fragments in your egg, try cracking it against a flat countertop instead of the edge of the bowl.
If a bit of shell falls into your egg, pick it out with your fingers, without breaking the yolk. It’s easier to get it out with half of the shell, but that increases the risk of salmonella contamination.
Let the whites drip through your fingers. Reach into the bowl and cup a yolk, lifting it up. Move your hand over to the second bowl and separate your fingers slightly, letting the whites drip through. Use your other hand to gently pull down thick strands of white if it doesn’t fall on its own. If there is still white attached to the yolk, pass it back and forth between your hands until most of the white has dripped into the bowl below.
Drop the yolk into the last bowl. Move the yolk over to the last bowl and drop it in gently. Repeat the process with all your other eggs.
Separating Eggs Shell to Shell
Chill the eggs (optional). Room temperature eggs have runnier whites, which can make this method messy and difficult. Work with eggs straight from the fridge instead.
Imagine a line going around the “fattest” part of the egg. This is where you want to make the cleanest crack you can manage. The key with this method is to crack the egg evenly, so you can easily transfer the yolk between the two halves.
Start the crack on the egg. Tap the center of the egg gently against a hard object, so a crack forms across about half of the egg. The edge of a bowl is a good surface for getting two equal halves. The edge can also break off shell fragments into your white, though, so a flat counter might be better if your eggs have thin shells.
If pieces of eggshell fall into the egg whites, wet your finger with water, and touch the shell gently.
Carefully break apart the shell. Hold the egg over a bowl in both hands with the crack facing upward and the wide end tilted down. Slowly pull apart the two halves with your thumbs, until the egg breaks into two halves. Because the egg is tilted, the yolk should fall into the lower half.
Transfer the yolk from shell to shell. “Pour” the intact yolk back and forth between the two halves of the shell. Repeat this about three times, while the white drips over the side of the shell and into the bowl below.
Drop the yolk in another bowl once there are only tiny bits of white stuck to it. If you have more eggs to separate, consider using a third bowl, so a messy crack doesn’t drop shell shards or broken yolk into your whites. Separate each egg over this third bowl, then empty the bowl into the other whites bowl before you move on to the next.
Using a Plastic Bottle
This is my go to way to separate eggs. Carefully crack the egg onto a shallow bowl. Start with one at a time, so a broken yolk doesn’t ruin your whole plate. Keep a second bowl on the side for the yolks.
Squeeze some of the air from a clean plastic bottle. Hold the bottle in this partially crumpled position.
Pick up the yolk. Place the mouth of the bottle on top of the egg yolk, and slowly release your grip. The air pressure will push the yolk into the bottle. This might take some practice; releasing too much or too quickly will pull up some of the egg whites as well.
Transfer the yolk to the other bowl. Carefully keep the bottle compressed so the yolk stays inside the bottle. Move the bottle over to the other bowl and let go to drop in the yolk. Tilting the bottle a little may help.
These tips will help you master the art of perfecting your dishes.
All About The Yolk
Freeze leftovers or use them for a recipe that only calls for egg yolks. If you want to freeze it you’ll have to add a bit of sugar or salt, depending on whatever you’ll want to use it for in the future.
Egg yolks contain high amounts of fat. Once an egg yolk breaks into your whites, you have to start the separation anew, because it can prevent your foam from forming.
Try to plan your cooking so you have a use for both the whites and the eggs. For example, homemade mayonnaise is an easy option if you have leftover yolks.
And What About The Egg Whites?
If you’re beating the egg whites, such as for a meringue, make sure no yolk gets into the whites. Any bit of yolk will cause the whites not to foam.
Wash your hands thoroughly. Scrub your hands with hot, running water and unscented soap, then rinse them off. Besides washing away dirt, this will remove skin oils that can prevent whites from fluffing.
Make sure the egg whites are at room temperature when preparing a meringue so the whites can reach full volume.
Why Choose Fresh Eggs?
Start with fresh eggs whenever possible. The membrane that encloses the yolk weakens over time, so the fresher the eggs, the “tighter” the yolk.
Fresher eggs have more tightly folded proteins, which make for stiffer whipped egg whites.
Fresh eggs also have strong, ropy pieces of white called chalazae. There’s no need to pick these out of the other whites, although if you’re using them in a soft custard it’s a good idea to strain them out after cooking.
Chilled or Room Temperature?
Chill the eggs (optional). Cold yolks are less likely to break than warm ones, and easier to separate from the white.
If you store your eggs in the fridge, separate them right after taking them out. If you store them at room temperature, you can put them in the fridge half an hour before you cook — though it’s not a big deal if you forget.
Most recipes call for whites or yolks at room temperature. You can warm chilled, separated egg by placing the bowls of yolks and whites in a pan of warm water (not hot) for 5–10 minutes.
Most images in my Tip Friday Series use free stock photos.
This article is part of the Tips That Help in the Kitchen Series, Tip Friday.