Culinary Arts

How to Separate Egg Whites From Egg Yolks

Written by MasterClass

Mar 15, 2019 • 4 min read

Separating egg whites from egg yolks is a common practice in the kitchen. Maybe your recipe calls for only egg whites or only egg yolks, or maybe you only want to scramble egg whites for a less-caloric breakfast. Whatever your reason for separating whites from yolks, you always want to do it as carefully as possible

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4 Reasons to Separate Egg Whites and Yolks

Unless you’re boiling, frying, or poaching a whole egg (as Chef Gordon Ramsay perfectly demonstrates), there are a variety of reasons why you should separate egg whites from yolks. The most common include:

  1. The recipe instructions call for separated eggs. If a recipe calls for 2 egg whites or 3 egg yolks, you shouldn’t just crack eggs into a bowl to retrieve them. Separating the white from the yolk might be less efficient, but it’s more effective.
  2. To avoid contamination. Carefully separating the whites from the yolks one by one will ensure that no yolk seeps into the white. A little bit of white with your yolk is okay, but you don’t want any yolk contaminating your white.
  3. A yolk might be broken. We’ve all been there: You crack an egg into a bowl in the hopes of retrieving the yolk, only to find that the yolk is broken. You never know if a yolk will be broken until you crack the egg open. Thus, just to be safe, separating it from the white is always a good idea.
  4. You might have a double yolk egg. Much like a broken yolk, you never know if an egg will have a double yolk until you crack it open. While double yolks are rare, they do happen—and they can seriously mess up your recipe amounts.

4 Tips for Separating Egg Whites From Egg Yolks

Separating egg whites from yolks is one of the most useful kitchen tips out there. Here’s what you need to know before you start:

  • Wash your hands first. In addition to getting rid of dirt, washing your hands will remove skin oils that, when they come in contact with egg whites, can stop them from fluffing.
  • Use chilled eggs. Cold yolks are easier to separate from the white. Also, room-temperature yolks are more likely to break than cold ones.
  • Wash your hands after. Raw eggs contain salmonella. To avoid cross-contamination with other ingredients, wash your hands after separating the eggs.

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Separate Egg Whites From Yolks

Even if you’re planning on using the whole egg, cracking it over a single bowl can still be risky. That’s where the hand method comes in. Remember: Clean hands are your secret weapon.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Crack the egg into your hand over a small bowl. Catch the yolk in your cupped palm while letting the white drip through your fingers into the bowl. Use this bowl only for the white you’re currently working with.
  2. Drop the yolk into a second small bowl. Use this bowl only to reserve your yolks.
  3. Pour the white into a third large bowl. Do this after every egg and use this bowl only to reserve whites.

4 Other Methods for Separating Eggs Whites and Yolks

In addition to the hand method, there are other ways to separate whites from yolks, too. But try them at your own risk, as they don’t always protect you from broken yolks.

The eggshell method, a.k.a. the traditional method

  1. Crack the egg cleanly and evenly across the fattest part of the shell.
  2. Break the shell into two even halves over a bowl.
  3. Transfer the yolk from one shell to the other, tilting the eggs back and forth and allowing the white to drip out of the shells and into the bowl. Repeat until most of the white has dripped into the bowl.
  4. Drop the yolk into a second bowl.

The slotted spoon method

  1. Hold a slotted spoon over a bowl.
  2. Crack the egg onto the slotted spoon.
  3. Allow the white to drip into the bowl. Tilt the spoon slightly to help the process along.
  4. Drop the yolk into a second bowl.

The water bottle method

  1. Crack the egg into a bowl.
  2. Squeeze a clean plastic bottle. Keeping it squeezed, place the mouth of the bottle on top of the egg yolk.
  3. Release your grip slowly and watch the air pressure suck the yolk into the bottle, tilting it slightly so it doesn’t spill out. This may take some practice.
  4. Drop the yolk into a second bowl.

The funnel method

  1. Hold a funnel over a bowl or into the mouth of a clean plastic bottle.
  2. Crack the egg into the funnel.
  3. Allow the white to drip into the bowl.
  4. Pour the yolk into a second bowl.

Additionally, a store-bought egg separator tool can help you separate whites from eggs, too.

How to Separate the Egg White From the Yolk With a Broken Shell

If the eggshell is broken, you have to be extra careful when separating the white from the yolk. Here are a few things to try:

  • Make the crack bigger and see if you can salvage the egg.
  • If the break is small enough, try to make a second larger crack on another part of the egg and see if you can continue like normal.
  • Carefully dump the entire contents of the egg into a bowl and lift out the yolk with a slotted spoon.
  • If all else fails, toss the egg in the trash and use a fresh, unbroken one. Or, whip up a quick side of scrambled eggs as a snack.

How to Separate Egg White From Broken Yolk

The best way to collect a broken yolk from egg whites is by using an empty eggshell. Dip half of the shell into the eggs and scoop up the broken yolk. A shell is like a magnet to a yolk and should get it all.

Learn more about eggs with our guide on egg grades and egg sizes.