Before you start whipping up a meringue, you should know the different types and which is best-suited to your task. The three main types are:
French Meringue is the least stable and will need to be baked if not used immediately, but is also the easiest to make. You simply whip up egg whites with sugar. Both Swiss and Italian slightly cook the egg whites during the process, making them suitable for piping onto pies, tarts, and treats without an additional baking step. They will also provide a smooth, professional-looking browning if you torch them.
The French variety of meringue requires whisking egg whites to soft peaks, then whisking with sugar to stiff peaks. Though easy to make, the end result is less smooth and will shortly begin oozing water in an unappetizing display. Unless you plan on baking your meringue for cookies or marshmallows, stay away from French.
Italian Meringue actually cooks the egg whites using hot sugar. This locks the protein structures in place and prevents your meringue from breaking. Sugar is heated to the soft-ball stage while egg whites are whipped to soft peaks. The hot sugar is slowly poured into the egg whites and vigorously whipped to stiff peaks.
In a Swiss Meringue, egg whites are also cooked but to a slightly lower temperature. In my opinion, this gives more control over the texture of the final product. Egg whites are whipped with sugar over a water bath until the whites are very hot to the touch. They are then removed from the heat and vigorously whipped to stiff peaks.
Ready to start whipping? I recommend a Swiss Meringue because it's the easier of the stable ones and the most versatile. Learn how to make a Swiss Meringue here.
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