The Worst Weather For Making Meringues, According To Ina Garten

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

Meringue can be a tricky thing. The basic recipe for the delicate sugar confection that brings a wow factor to everything from Baked Alaska to melt-in-your-mouth cookies contains only three ingredients. Still, meringue is notoriously difficult to make. Even highly regarded chef, television host, and cookbook author Ina Garten treads carefully when it comes to making desserts that include the finicky confection. However, she's learned a few tricks along the way, including the words of wisdom she shared while preparing Chantilly meringue during a season 10 episode of her long-running Food Network show, "Barefoot Contessa."

"[Meringue] is something you really don't want to do on a rainy day," Garten advised. "Everybody's had meringues that are sort of chewy. It's because there's too much humidity in the air. It really makes a huge difference. It's surprising, but it's true." So, what if you have your heart set on serving meringues, but the weather forecast isn't cooperating? The Barefoot Contessa offers this workaround: Prepare the meringues in advance, on a low-humidity day, and store them in an airtight container until ready to serve.

But why?

Making meringue can feel like a middle school science class experiment. A little of this. A little of that. And bam. We get a reaction. Back in the day, that bam moment would have been a learning experience. But for grown-ups whipping up what we hope will be an impressive dessert, it can be an epic pass or fail that's especially puzzling when it seems — despite our best effort to follow the same recipe instructions every single time — the outcome is as random as a coin toss. That's why Garten steers clear of making meringue on rainy days. She's learned from experience how the weather can wreak havoc with the delicate confection.

Here's what happens: An egg white is about 90% water and around 10% protein. Whisking pumps air into the egg white. The air causes some of the protein to unravel (a process known as denaturing), exposing amino acids that attach to air bubbles and separate from the water. On excessively humid or rainy days, the moisture in the air undermines that natural process, creating an environment that's almost sure to undermine our best intentions, leaving us with a sticky and chewy blob instead of a light and fluffy meringue.