Nothing sends chills down a cook’s spine than reading “temper the egg yolks” in a recipe.
It is an unspoken sign of a cook’s skill; get it right and you have a creamy, silky dessert that melts in your mouth. Get it wrong, however, and you get a lumpy batter, or worse, scrambled eggs instead of custard.
But what if I told you that you can get the same smooth, creamy custard, or pudding, or anything that “requires” tempering egg yolks without actually tempering them?
While I have not tested every single recipe out there, I’ve discovered—from many ice creams, puddings, custards, crème anglaise, and crème pats (and many other Great British Bake Off recipes)—that tempering eggs is not necessary.
That’s right, the nail-biting exercise of pouring scalded milk (watch those splashes!) into egg yolks, anxiously whisking, and then preparing to drain the mixture back into the larger pot of hot liquid, all while you fervently hope your eggs don’t cook and curdle and become a congealed mess instead of a silky custard? Totally unnecessary.
How to Not Temper Eggs
So how do we make a recipe without tempering eggs? There are two ways:
For recipes that do not require infusing flavors into your custard: Instead of tempering, simply combine your eggs with liquids and whisk to combine. Bring the mixture up to the temperature indicated by the recipe and continue to whisk until the desired consistency is reached.
For recipes with an infusion: Here, you should first heat your liquids to the temperature indicated by the recipe to infuse your flavors, then simply wait for the infusion to return to room temperature. Whisk in your eggs at room temp and then bring the mixture back up to the temperature indicated by the recipe to proceed.
Between the two of them, these approaches should have you covered about 98% of the time.
Yes, there are a handful of very specific recipes that require tempered eggs as part of a fast-paced and orchestrated sequence of events, but I think you’ll soon find that taking things slow and easy provides consistent results and removes a huge amount of pressure and anxiety.
The key again is to make sure that the liquid is at room temperature when you’re adding the eggs. Egg proteins begin to cook once the temperature approaches 140°F so it’s important to mix in the eggs below that temperature. I aim for around 115°F, which is pretty lukewarm (think warm tap water).
Will you need a strainer? I find that I need to strain my bases less when using this method. Mixing everything together fully to incorporate your eggs is essential here. Since you’re adding the eggs into a liquid, you may miss an egg lump or two hidden below the surface, so mix it vigorously initially and then slow it down so you’re not adding in too many bubbles or air.
And that’s it! Once you’ve mixed in the eggs, continue with the recipe as if you had just carefully, expertly tempered your eggs. Except you didn’t have to.
Ready for more temper-less cooking? Try these recipes: