Processed Egg Whites
When you need a lot of egg whites for a recipe, it’s tempting to grab a carton of egg whites sold in the supermarket dairy case or a canister of powdered egg whites in the baking aisle. But do these taste the same as fresh egg whites, and can you cook with them with comparable results? We bought four products (three liquid and one dehydrated) put out by national brands and made egg white omelets, meringue cookies, and angel food cakes, tasting them blind alongside samples made with egg whites from eggs that we cracked ourselves.
All four products were more or less acceptable in omelets (although the powdered whites were slightly grainy). But when it came to baking, fresh eggs produced taller angel food cakes and delicately crisp meringues, whereas egg white substitutes yielded shorter cakes and slightly harder, denser meringues.
Given that these products contain nothing but egg whites, what made the difference? The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that liquid egg whites be pasteurized, a process that heats the whites enough to kill bacteria without cooking them. Powdered egg whites are made by evaporating water in a spray dryer. The substitutes can be safely added to uncooked frostings and drinks. But pasteurization changes the nature of the egg proteins enough to compromise their structure, especially in baked goods—a limitation that isn’t always mentioned on product labels. The heating process prematurely links the proteins so that they unfold and stretch less readily when whipped. As a result, they cannot hold the same amount of air or achieve the same volume as fresh egg whites. That’s why when we whipped the whites, one product needed 22 minutes to reach soft peaks, compared with just 6 minutes for fresh whites. Our top-ranked product is a convenient substitute for fresh whites in omelets, scrambles, and frittatas, and it makes satisfactory baked goods. Just keep in mind that it costs more than fresh whole eggs.
Our favorite premium extra-virgin olive oil from a previous tasting, Columela is composed of a blend of intense Picual, mild Hojiblanca, Ocal, and Arbequina olives. This oil took top honors for its fruity flavor and excellent balance. Tasters praised its “big olive aroma, big olive taste” with a “buttery” flavor that is “sweet” and “full,” with a “peppery finish.” One taster said: “It’s very green and fresh—like a squeezed olive.” Another simply wrote: “Fantastic.”
|Spain||$19 for 17 oz|
Tasters noted this oil’s flavor was “much deeper than the other samples,” describing it as “fruity, with a slight peppery finish,” “buttery undertones,” and a “clean, green taste” that was “aromatic, with a good balance.” “It has the flavor that some good EVOOs have,” said one admiring taster.
|Italy||$19.99 for 500 ml ($39.98 per liter)|
Virtually tied for second place, this oil was deemed “round and buttery,” with a “light body” and flavor that was “briny and fruity,” “very fine and smooth,” and “almost herbal,” with “great balance.” “Good olive flavor. I could smell it and taste it,” approved one taster. In a word, “pleasant.”
|Italy||$17.99 for 750 ml ($23.98 per liter)|
|Recommended with Reservations|
A clear step down from the top oils, tasters noted “overall mild” flavor and “very little aroma,” with only a “hint of green olive” and a “hint of spiciness at the end.” In pasta, it was initially “not complex,” but gradually “bloomed in your mouth.” Overall, it was “worthy of a second bite.”
|Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia||$12.49 for 750 ml ($16.65 per liter)|
While some tasters found this oil “sweet” and “buttery” with “medium body” and “slight spice at the end,” others complained that it had “zero olive flavor” and was “so floral it’s almost like eating perfume”; still others noted a “bitter” aftertaste. In pasta, it was “extremely mild” to the point of being “boring.”
|Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia||$10.99 for 750 ml ($14.65 per liter)|
Comments: The best comments tasters could muster were “mild” and “neutral.” Some liked it on pasta (though one called it “Snoozeville”), but complaints were myriad: “metallic,” “soapy,” “briny,” “hints of dirt.” Carped one taster, “I can’t imagine what is in here, but they have a nerve calling it EVOO.”
|Spain||$13.99 for 1 liter|
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