Meringue is a type of dessert or candy made from whipped egg whites and sugar. It is often used as a topping for pies and other baked goods. Meringue can be cooked or uncooked. Uncooked meringue is safe to eat raw because the high sugar content prevents bacteria growth. However, uncooked meringue is quite delicate and can easily lose its light, airy texture if not stored properly. This article will examine whether uncooked meringue keeps in the fridge and provide tips for optimal storage.
What is Meringue?
Meringue is made by whipping egg whites with fine granulated sugar until stiff, glossy peaks form. The sugar stabilizes the egg foam structure and prevents the whites from deflating. There are two main types of meringue:
- French meringue – Egg whites and sugar whipped over heat. This makes a dense, smooth meringue.
- Swiss meringue – Egg whites and sugar heated over a double boiler before whipping. This makes a very stable glossy meringue.
Both types can be used uncooked or cooked. When cooked, the eggs denature and the meringue sets to form a light, marshmallow-like texture. Uncooked meringue remains smooth, creamy, and mousse-like. It will not set even when refrigerated.
Does Uncooked Meringue Keep in the Fridge?
Yes, uncooked meringue can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. The chilled air helps preserve the foam structure. However, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Humidity is the enemy of meringue. The sugar absorbs moisture from the air, causing the meringue to “weep” beads of syrup and deflate.
- Placing meringue in an airtight container protects it from humidity.
- Even when well-sealed, uncooked meringue will slowly deflate in the fridge.
- Meringue shells and desserts topped with meringue should be consumed within 3-5 days.
- Stabilizers like cream of tartar or cornstarch can prolong shelf life slightly.
So while it is possible to store uncooked meringue in the refrigerator, it will not keep indefinitely. Expect some loss of volume and weeping over time. For optimal results, refrigerate in an airtight container and use within a few days.
Tips for Storing Uncooked Meringue
Here are some tips for maximizing the shelf life of uncooked meringue in the fridge:
Use an Airtight Container
Place meringue in a container that seals tightly to block humidity. Options include:
- Plastic container with an airtight lid
- Mason jar with a two-piece lid
- Disposable piping bag sealed with a clip
Avoid containers that allow air exchange like cardboard or wax paper.
Line the Container
Before spooning meringue into a storage container, line it with parchment paper or plastic wrap. This prevents the meringue from sticking to the sides, which makes it easier to remove.
Seal Out Air Bubbles
Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the meringue to minimize air exposure. Air bubbles provide room for moisture to form. Exclude air bubbles when sealing containers as well.
Start chilling meringue as soon as possible after whipping it. Leaving it out allows drying and weeping to begin. Refrigeration slows this process.
For best results, plan to use refrigerated meringue within 3-5 days. Meringue older than 5 days is more likely to suffer severe weeping, shrinkage, or collapse.
Check for Weeping
Periodically inspect refrigerated meringue for beads of syrup on the surface. This weeping signifies moisture absorption. If significant, the meringue should be discarded.
How to Restore Weeping Meringue
A small degree of weeping is inevitable when refrigerating uncooked meringue. If it’s minimal, you may be able to rescue the meringue:
- Discard any meringue that has severely collapsed or broken down into a soupy mess.
- Gently fold a few tablespoons of granulated sugar into the weeping meringue. This will draw out some additional moisture.
- Whip the meringue briefly to reincorporate it. The sugar adds stabilization.
- Use immediately after restoring. The meringue will not hold up long.
This technique can revive meringue a couple of times before it becomes too degraded. But it’s better to use refrigerated meringue promptly before significant weeping occurs.
How Long Does Cooked Meringue Last in the Fridge?
Unlike raw meringue, cooked meringue sets firmly as it cools and can keep longer in the fridge. General storage guidelines:
- Meringue cookies: 1-2 weeks refrigerated in an airtight container.
- Meringue pies/tarts: 5-7 days refrigerated.
- Eclairs or cream puffs filled with whipped cream: 2-3 days refrigerated.
The crisp outer shell of cooked meringue protects the interior from absorbing moisture. Refrigeration also helps stabilize the filling inside.
Signs Cooked Meringue Has Gone Bad
Check cooked meringue products for the following signs of spoilage before eating:
- Weeping liquid or condensation inside the container
- Meringue weeping syrup or becoming sticky
- Mold growth
- Shriveling, collapse, or softening
- Off odors
Discard cooked meringue displaying any of these signs. The crunchy texture will also eventually soften over time. But properly refrigerated cooked meringue stays safe to eat for up to 2 weeks.
Can You Freeze Meringue?
Freezing is not recommended for uncooked meringue. The freezing process tends to break down the foam structure. However, cooked meringue can be frozen:
- Freeze pies, tarts, or meringue cookies up to 3 months.
- Place items in freezer bags, squeezing out excess air.
- Thaw refrigerated overnight before serving.
The frozen desserts may emerge a bit limp or weeping. Letting them thaw slowly in the fridge allows moisture to redistribute evenly.
Key Takeaways on Storing Meringue
Here are the key storage tips for meringue:
- Refrigerate uncooked meringue in an airtight container up to 5 days maximum.
- Eat refrigerated uncooked meringue promptly to prevent weeping.
- Restore mildly weeping meringue by folding in sugar and re-whipping.
- Refrigerate cooked meringue products 1-2 weeks.
- Discard cooked meringue that develops mold, weeping, or collapse.
- Freeze cooked meringue goods like pies for up to 3 months.
Following proper storage methods allows both uncooked and cooked meringue desserts to be enjoyed long after initial preparation.
While uncooked meringue is delicate and temporary, storage in an airtight container in the refrigerator can prolong its shelf life for several days. Cooked meringue products last even longer refrigerated or frozen. Keep humidity away from meringue of any kind, as it causes weeping and breakdown of the foam structure. Promptly refrigerating freshly made meringue gives you the best chance of enjoying its light, airy texture before it begins to deteriorate. With proper storage techniques, both raw and cooked meringue can delight your palate for up to a week after making it.