Making meringue is something that takes a bit of time and skill. Baked goods that require meringue are so tasty, though, and many feel that it’s worth learning how to make the perfect meringue.
You might want to make delicious meringue pies or you could be interested in meringue cookies. Either way, you’re going to want to get your technique right.
When you first start making meringue, it’s possible that you’ll encounter some bumps along the road. For example, some people wind up having the meringue turn out a bit runny.
Why would the meringue be runny like this when you’re following a recipe and doing your best? Well, there could be several reasons, and you can go over why this happens sometimes by reading on.
1 – Undercooking
The problem that you’re running into when you have runny meringue is often related to baking issues. You might have made some mistakes when trying to bake your pie or cookies, and this caused the meringue to turn out wrong.
The most common situation that causes runny meringue occurs when you undercook what you’re trying to bake. You might have taken a pie out of the oven before it truly had time to finish baking, and this will cause it to appear runny instead of looking like it should.
Are you noticing that the top of the pie looks moist when you take it out of the oven? When you don’t bake the pie long enough, you might notice some unwanted moisture that will bead on the meringue.
This can make your meringue turn out completely wrong. It’s one of the most important reasons why you need to pay attention to the recipe that you’re following.
2 – Overcooking
Overcooking can actually cause your meringue to become runny as well. If you go beyond the time that you’re supposed to bake a pie, then sugary drops of moisture will appear on top.
It’s going to change the way that your meringue looks and tastes. This is not going to be the ideal type of meringue that you want for your pies.
To prevent this from happening, it’s going to be imperative to follow the recipe that you’re using closely. Use the recommended baking temperatures and ensure that you bake things for the right amount of time.
It’s certainly good to check your pies since ovens can cause baking times to vary somewhat, but you should try to stick close to the recommendations to get good results. Paying attention and being careful will often be all that is necessary to solve runny meringue issues.
3 – Errors When Trying to Stiffen the Meringue
You can also make mistakes before the baking process even begins that will cause your meringue to turn out poorly. When you think of a meringue dessert, you’ll generally note that it’s supposed to have stiff peaks.
If the meringue isn’t stiff and turns out kind of runny or flat, then you could have made mistakes during the stiffening process. This happens to a lot of newcomers who are making it for the first time.
You have to beat the meringue in a mixing bowl so that it can stiffen up properly. When you do this right, it will have stiff peaks and the sugar will dissolve.
It takes about five minutes to do this with a hand mixer on average. You could have given up too soon and wound up not stiffening the peaks as you were supposed to.
Some people don’t really know what stiff meringue is supposed to look like, and this causes them to assume that they did things right. It might be good to learn from someone who has made meringue many times before so that they can show you how it’s supposed to turn out.
Having a good visual aid of how meringue should look in the bowl when it starts to stiffen is helpful. It isn’t that hard to tell when it is stiffened, but these mistakes are common enough that having help would be good for any newcomers.
It’s also notable that you can beat meringue too much. If you go overboard and mix it for longer than you’re supposed to, the texture of the meringue could turn out gritty and you might notice that it’s a bit dry.
4 – Egg Whites Weren’t Whisked Properly
Sometimes people encounter issues with meringue being runny due to making mistakes during the mixing process. Meringue is made using egg whites and sugar when using standard recipes, and you need to ensure that you’re whisking egg whites well before adding the sugar.
It’s very possible that your meringue is runny because you added the sugar too soon and didn’t whisk the egg whites well before moving forward. You might want to change the way that you approach things to try to get better results.
Some people find that whisking your egg whites and then adding a bit of sugar helps. Add a tablespoon of sugar and then whisk the egg whites until they have roughly medium peaks before proceeding to add the rest of the sugar.
If you do this, you should have an easier time whisking things the rest of the way and getting stiff peaks to appear. It’s always good to try out new approaches that might work better for you when you’re having problems.
5 – Soapy Mixing Bowls
Have you had problems even getting your egg whites to stiffen properly? This happens sometimes, and one potential cause involves having a soapy mixing bowl.
When you try to whisk egg whites in a bowl that still has some soap residue in it, the whole process will be thrown off. Things won’t stiffen up because of the presence of the soap residue.
The presence of fat from other ingredients could be lingering in the mixing bowl as well. You might not have rinsed the bowl as well as you thought you did and this could be leading to your problems with getting the egg whites to stiffen.
Do your best to carefully rinse your mixing bowl to prevent this from happening. Do the same thing for your whisk and your beaters since they can also throw the whole process off if they aren’t rinsed well.
What About Meringue Going Flat?
Flat meringue is a different problem than runny meringue, but it’s another thing that people who are new to baking meringue baked goods deal with. You can easily make a mistake with your eggs and wind up having your meringue go flat on you.
It’s very disheartening to take a pie out of the oven to discover that the meringue is deflated. Instead of having the beautiful peaks that you expected, you’ll be left with a flat meringue on top of the rest of the pie.
This often happens because of issues with separating the egg whites. Separating egg whites from the rest of the egg can be a bit tricky for some people, and you could have made a mistake.
For example, you might have accidentally gotten some of the yolk in with your egg whites. When this occurs, it can easily cause the meringue to go flat.
You might need to try to take things slower so that you can separate the egg whites and get good results. It takes a bit of patience to do this, but it’ll be worth it in the end.
Conversely, you could choose to buy something like liquid egg whites so that you don’t have to separate egg whites at all. If you find this to be more convenient, then you can definitely go for it.
Using Cold Eggs
Making meringue is going to be so much tougher if you choose to use eggs that just came out of the refrigerator. Many people do this when they’re new to making meringue and wind up encountering issues.
It’s a lot easier to get egg whites to stiffen and produce good meringue when they’re at room temperature. This means that allowing your egg whites to sit out on the counter for a while before you start baking will be wise.
It is notable that it’s easier to separate eggs when they’re cold, though. To have the easiest time, you could separate the eggs when they’re fresh out of the fridge and then allow them to sit for a while so that they will be at room temperature.
It isn’t impossible to separate room-temperature eggs, though, and many people just allow the eggs to sit out for a bit before they do anything. Choose whichever path you find to be the most convenient.
Knowing more about why meringue turns out runny should allow you to make changes to what you’re doing. You’ll be able to figure out where you’re going wrong and make adjustments so that you can get better results.
You’ll be able to enjoy delicious meringue pies or cookies before you know it. It’s true that meringue can be a bit tricky at times, but once you get used to making it you won’t have so many problems.
Just follow the advice above and you’ll have a substantially easier time. Making the best meringue is often about being patient and knowing what you need to do ahead of time to set yourself up for success.
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.