Sugar in Meringues

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
The addition of sugar is what makes a fragile egg-white foam into a stable, glossy meringue. The more sugar added, the more body the meringue will have, and the crisper it will be when baked. The proportion (by either volume or weight) of sugar to egg white ranges from about 1 to 1 to about 2 to 1, the equivalent of a 50% and a 67% sugar solution, respectively. The higher is typical of jams and jellies—and also the room-temperature limit of sugar’s solubility in water. Ordinary granulated sugar won’t dissolve completely in a “hard” meringue, and will leave a gritty texture and weeping syrup drops. Superfine and powdered “confectioner’s” sugar, or a premade syrup, are better choices. (Powdered sugar, which weighs half as much as the other sugars cup for cup, contains 10% cornstarch to help prevent caking, which some cooks dislike and others value as moisture-absorbing insurance.)