How to Separate Eggs

Who knew a 9-year old would find separating eggs so much fun? I taught my nephew how to separate eggs last week and every day he asked to separate more eggs. I think we went through a couple dozen, making ice cream from scratch 3 times, cake, pavlova, and a lot of scrambled eggs for breakfast. Lots of recipes call for separated eggs. Here’s what we do:

How to Separate Eggs

Method

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Set out two bowls. Crack the egg gently on a flat surface or on the rim of a bowl, as close to the middle of the egg as possible. If you crack it on the rim of a bowl it might be easier to get the egg to crack right in the middle, but you are more likely to get pieces of egg shell in the egg whites. These days I crack eggs on a flat surface.

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Working over a small bowl, use your thumbs to gently pry the egg halves apart. Let the yolk settle in the lower half of the egg shell while the egg whites run off the sides of the egg into the bowl. Gently transfer the egg yolk back and forth between the egg shell halves, letting as much egg white as you can drip into the bowl below. Be careful so as not to break the egg yolk. Place the egg yolk in a separate bowl.

If you are planning to whip the egg whites for a recipe, you might want to separate the eggs one by one into a smaller bowl, and then transfer the separated egg into larger bowls. This way if you break a yolk it will not break into all the egg whites you've separated. The fat in the egg yolk (or any oil) will interfere with the egg white's ability to whip up properly. For this reason also you should also wash your hands carefully, to remove any natural body oils, before working with egg whites.

If you get a piece of egg shell in the separated eggs, fish it out with a larger piece of shell.

Note that chilled eggs are easier to separate (the yolk doesn't break as easily), but most recipes call for working with eggs at room temperature. So, you either let your eggs get to room temperature before separating them, in which case you'll need to be a bit more careful with the egg yolks, or let the eggs get to room temperature after you've separated them, in which case you should cover them in their bowl with plastic wrap and use them as soon as they get to room temp.

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Another way to separate eggs is to crack the egg open into your upturned palm. Let the egg whites slide through your finger tips. This is faster than the other method but if you are planning on whipping the egg whites, the less the egg whites come in contact with your hands, and the natural oils on them, the better.

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Showing 4 of 21 Comments

  • elbuzzard

    I’ve always heard that using the eggshells to separate the eggs increases the chances of bad bacteria getting into the eggs, because the outside of the shells may not be the cleanest surface in the world.

    But this is the way I’ve always done it, and I’m not dead (yet).

  • Susan

    Excellent description. And thanks for the reminder about cold eggs being easier to separate.

    I’ve discovered that for me it is easiest to crack an egg for separating by hitting it “just right” with the dull side of the blade of a table knife. This cracks the shell without cracking the yolk.

    Also, if you are doing several eggs and you happen to get an especially nice half shell early on in the process, you may want to use that shell for one of the halves in later transfers.

  • Elise

    Hi Jerry – Yep, egg separators work too, but I still like doing them by hand.

    Hi DewDrop – that stoneware egg separator is hilarious! Though I think if my nephew had seen me use something like this he would refuse to eat anything I made with those eggs.

    Hi El Buzzard – Fortunately, cooking the eggs kills bacteria.

    Hi Susan – We also found that saving a particularly good shell half was useful for some of the eggs that didn’t break cleanly. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Priya

    I love all of the recipes you have on your blog. I have a question about the usage of eggs in cakes. I am allergic to them so cannot eat cakes or any thing that has egg in it.What is a good substitute for eggs in cakes?

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