At its best, meringue is a light, airy dessert that tastes decadently sweet without weighing down a meal. The delicate heights and unique swirls of meringues impress guests, who will consider you a highly skilled baker when you serve them meringues baked on their own or as part of a larger dish.
Although meringues are only made with a few ingredients, usually egg whites, sugar, and something acidic, they are deceptively difficult to make. One small mistake during the process, and your meringues could become sticky and chewy instead of light and airy as they are meant to be.
There are several reasons why a meringue could be chewy, ranging from the mixing process to baking. Luckily, there are also many ways to protect your meringues from chewiness and to make them turn out like perfect clouds of sugar every time.
Causes of Chewiness
Many factors affect the success of your meringues, and any one of them going wrong could cause your meringues to become chewy. While some recipes call for intentionally chewy meringues, most of the time, you are looking for a fluffy texture.
Here are a few factors that could affect the texture of your meringue.
1 – Improper Baking
Meringues require great precision throughout the process, and that includes the baking process. Usually, they are supposed to bake at low temperatures for a longer amount of time, which dries out the meringues and allows them to develop a fluffy, crunchy texture.
If you are baking your meringues at the wrong temperature or for the wrong amount of time, they will become chewy. One of the biggest mistakes bakers make when making meringues is to underbake them, which does not give them enough time to dry out.
If your temperature is too high, that will also cause your meringues to develop a chewy texture. Baking your meringues at a higher temperature will also brown them, while often you are looking for pristine white meringues.
2 – Poor Mixing Technique
Most of what makes a meringue successful is mixing. Mixing brings the egg whites to stiff peaks that create the unique texture of a meringue.
However, because there are so few ingredients in a meringue, that means there is even less margin of error when it comes to mixing. Not preparing your meringues properly before baking them will cause all kinds of failures in the oven, including a chewy texture.
Most first-time meringue makers make the mistake of mixing their meringues for too little time. Your meringues should be at very stiff peaks before you start piping them out.
Other common mistakes when mixing include whipping cold egg whites when they should be at room temperature, adding the sugar too quickly, and contaminating the egg whites.
3 – Too Much Moisture
One of the most significant causes of chewiness when it comes to meringues is moisture. Perfect crispy meringues only succeed when all the moisture is sucked out of the mixture during the baking process, but if there is too much to begin with, this might never happen.
Sometimes, too much moisture is added because of mistakes during preparation. If your mixing bowl is even a little bit wet, then the egg whites will not whip up properly. Be sure to thoroughly clean and dry your bowl and use an aluminum one if possible.
Other times, the moisture that gets added to your meringues is out of your control.
Meringues are very sensitive to the air around them. Anything from a rainy day or a humid climate to a pot of water boiling nearby could cause your meringues to absorb too much moisture. If at all possible, make your meringues when conditions are dry.
How to Prevent Chewy Meringues
Given how many ways there are to damage your meringue beyond repair, making it seems daunting. However, for every way that there is to damage your meringue, there are also tips to salvage it or prevent it from becoming chewy in the first place.
Some of these tips are intuitive parts of the meringue-making process. Others were developed by home bakers and professionals after much trial and error.
Invest in an Oven Thermometer
Meringues require great precision while baking. Underbaking your meringues or baking them too quickly will make them chewy.
However, many home ovens simply do not have the precision required to make perfect meringues. Your oven could be off from the temperature you are turning on the dial by several degrees, and you could not even know it!
There is an easy fix for an imprecise oven that does not require precise calibration or calling someone to repair it. All you have to do is get an oven thermometer, which you can find for a few dollars online or in your local store.
The oven thermometer will allow you to set your oven to the exact temperature your meringues need to bake at, without needing to do any guesswork.
Be Precise When Mixing
Another part of the meringue-making process where meringues often fail is mixing. One way to avoid failure is to follow directions to the letter.
Make sure your egg whites are at the right temperature for mixing by separating them right after taking them out of the fridge, then allowing them to warm up to room temperature for an hour before mixing.
You should also be sure that your mixing bowl is completely clean, and that your egg whites are separated perfectly. Even a speck of yolk could drastically alter your meringue’s texture.
There are some tips you can use to make mixing easier. One way to stabilize the mixture is by adding a tiny amount of an acidic ingredient such as cream of tartar.
Fix Them Afterward
If you pull your meringues out of the oven and realize that they are too chewy, all is not lost. It is possible to fix chewy meringues even after the initial baking time.
Return your meringues to the oven and bake them for a short amount of time, usually 10 or 15 minutes, at around 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Placing them on a parchment sheet will help you pull out more moisture and get a better texture.
Rebaking your meringues can also help revive them after storage. If they seem a little chewy after sitting in the fridge for a few days, baking them for a few minutes will restore them to their original texture.
Storing your meringues properly will also ensure that they stay crispy for longer. Make sure that they are in an airtight container so that no humidity can get to them. Then, they can be stored in the freezer for as long as a month.
Meringue is a finicky dessert technique that intimidates many beginner bakers because there are so many ways to get it wrong. One mistake in oven temperature or a rainy day, and you could have chewy meringues on your hands.
However, there are many ways to prevent chewy meringues or even fix them after baking. Many bakers before you have also struggled with meringues and developed techniques to solve common problems such as a chewy texture.
With time and practice, the process will become intuitive, and you will be able to reliably churn out perfect meringues.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.