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Processed Egg Whites
How do these packaged products compare to fresh egg whites—both in taste and performance?
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What You Need To Know
When you need a lot of egg whites for a recipe, it’s tempting to grab a carton of egg whites sold in the supermarket dairy case or a canister of powdered egg whites in the baking aisle. But do these taste the same as fresh egg whites, and can you cook with them with comparable results? We bought four products (three liquid and one dehydrated) put out by national brands and made egg white omelets, meringue cookies, and angel food cakes, tasting them blind alongside samples made with egg whites from eggs that we cracked ourselves.
All four products were more or less acceptable in omelets (although the powdered whites were slightly grainy). But when it came to baking, fresh eggs produced taller angel food cakes and delicately crisp meringues, whereas egg white substitutes yielded shorter cakes and slightly harder, denser meringues.
Given that these products contain nothing but egg whites, what made the difference? The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that liquid egg whites be pasteurized, a process that heats the whites enough to kill bacteria without cooking them. Powdered egg whites are made by evaporating water in a spray dryer. The substitutes can be safely added to uncooked frostings and drinks. But pasteurization changes the nature of the egg proteins enough to compromise their structure, especially in baked goods—a limitation that isn’t always mentioned on product labels. The heating process prematurely links the proteins so that they unfold and stretch less readily when whipped. As a result, they cannot hold the same amount of air or achieve the same volume as fresh egg whites. That’s why when we whipped the whites, one product needed 22 minutes to reach soft peaks, compared with just 6 minutes for fresh whites. Our top-ranked product is a convenient substitute for fresh whites in omelets, scrambles, and frittatas, and it makes satisfactory baked goods. Just keep in mind that it costs more than fresh whole eggs.
Everything We Tested
This organic product looked like fresh egg whites and made an omelet that “tasted real” and an angel food cake that was “somewhat coarse but entirely acceptable.” Meringue cookies were “hollow” and overly “crunchy,” but their exteriors were “glossy and smooth.”
Recommended with reservations
The omelets tasted “very eggy,” making this brand a good substitute when cooking an egg white omelet. We liked the taste of the cookies and the cake, too. But we had to wait 22 very long minutes for these whites to whip to soft peaks, so we don’t recommend this product if you need to whip your whites.
The meringue cookies tasted a little powdery, while the omelet was slightly grainy. Still, these whites were a dream to work with, whipping up even faster than fresh whites (although you do need to reconstitute them with water first).
While they made an appealingly “fluffy, soft” omelet, these whites flopped—literally—when we tried to bake with them. We learned that they’re twice pasteurized, making them unable to hold peaks when whipped or to rise properly in the oven when baked.
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