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How do you temper eggs?

Tempering eggs

Tempering eggs is a critical culinary process, especially when it comes to making puddings, custards and other similar recipes. Eggs are tempered when a hot liquid (usually milk) is carefully streamed into them, bringing the eggs up to a very high temperature without cooking them. When properly incorporated, eggs have thickening properties that will help bring a custard to the appropriate consistency. This process is trickier than it sounds, since eggs cook a lot more easily than other ingredients and the last thing you want to add to a pudding is scrambled eggs!

To temper an egg, or multiple eggs, you need a large bowl and a whisk. Give the eggs a brief whisk in the bowl. Take your hot milk mixture and, working with just a few teaspoons at a time, pour it into the eggs as you whisk continuously. Adding the milk in this slowly prevents the eggs from being coked instantly from exposure to heat. Keep adding the milk in very small increments until all of it has been added. Strain the egg mixture back into your saucepan, removing any bits of egg that might have gotten cooked, and proceed with your recipe as written.

Now, you could try and just stream in your eggs (or egg mixture, as seen in this banana cream pie recipe) to the hot milk mixture to save time and dishes. This is not a good idea. When your egg hits that hot liquid, even if you whisk very fast as you work, it will cook almost instantly.  In a best-case-scenario with this method, you will end up with a lump or two in your finished pudding/custard.  In a worst-case scenario, you will end up with a saucepan full of scrambled egg pudding. If things go awry in the previously described method, you’ll only have to throw out a small portion of your hot milk mixture and start over with new eggs, saving a lot of time and a lot of batter.

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11 Comments
  • Jen
    September 25, 2009

    Thanks for this. I’m tempted to try it now!

  • StuffCooksWant
    September 25, 2009

    Ahhhh, “continually whisking”, THAT’S where I went wrong. I made David Lebovitz’ vanilla ice cream a few weeks ago and ended up with scrambled eggs in the custard. Had to start completely over, after, of course, I tasted them. Sweet scrambled eggs. so nasty. I whisked, but apparently not continuously. Thanks for the tip!

  • lona
    September 26, 2009

    Could I slowly dribble the hot milk down the side of the bowl of eggs while I stir rather than dribble the milk directly into the eggs? It seems that if I add the milk from the side of the bowl, I will be less likely to scramble the eggs on contact.

  • iphone
    November 9, 2009

    Had to start completely over, after, of course, I tasted them. Sweet scrambled eggs. so nasty. I whisked, but apparently not continuously.

  • Porridge « luCook
    March 27, 2012

    […] At this point, you will want to grab your bowl of the the egg/milk mixture and begin to slowly temper it using the hot water from your simmering pot of […]

  • Texas Roadhouse Rolls
    March 12, 2013

    […] “ To temper an egg, or multiple eggs, you need a large bowl and a whisk. Give the eggs a brief whisk in the bowl. Take your hot milk mixture and, working with just a few teaspoons at a time, pour it into the eggs as you whisk continuously. Adding the milk in this slowly prevents the eggs from being coked instantly from exposure to heat. Keep adding the milk in very small increments until all of it has been added. Strain the egg mixture back into your saucepan, removing any bits of egg that might have gotten cooked, and proceed with your recipe as written”.-Baking Bites […]

  • […] and then added in two eggs, one at a time by first mixing the egg in a small bowl and “tempering” with a small bit of the chocolate. And then slowly added the cup of […]

  • […] To prevent the eggs from curdling and in effect turning into scrambled eggs, whisk a cup of the hot combination of goat milk and chocolate into the egg yolks and honey thus tempering the eggs […]

  • […] While the mixer still churns, I boil a simple mixture of water and sugar. Then, I pour in the thinnest possible ribbon of syrup, slow and steady. Dump it in, and the egg scrambles. Don’t add it, and you’ve got raw eggs. Chefs call this process tempering. […]

  • […] While the mixer still churns, I boil a simple mixture of water and sugar. Then, I pour in the thinnest possible ribbon of syrup, slow and steady. Dump it in, and the egg scrambles. Don’t add it, and you’ve got raw eggs. Chefs call this process tempering. […]

  • […] before the pasta is done, turn off the heat under the tomatoes.  Now is when you “temper” the eggs to eventually put them into the sauce.  Take a ladle-full of pasta sauce, and, […]

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