How to separate egg whites and yolks

When a recipe calls for the eggs to be separated, it means they should be cracked open and the whites should be separated from the yolks. You can do this a few ways.

Separate an egg using the shell halves

  1. Crack the egg open by tapping the egg on the counter, or by hitting the middle of the egg on the edge of a glass bowl, or with the blade of a knife or handle of a spoon or fork.
  2. Holding the egg upright over a bowl, carefully separate the halves, letting some of the white drop out, but keeping the yolk in one of the halves.
  3. Empty the half without the yolk completely of egg white, then pour the yolk into this half, letting the white drop out.
  4. Pour the yolk back into the empty shell again, letting the egg white drop into the bowl. Repeat this until all the egg white is in the bowl.

Separate an egg using an egg separator

Egg separators are small gadgets that will catch the yolks but allow the whites to slip through. There are a variety of styles available. You'll find them where kitchen equipment is sold. (If you can't find a separator, try cracking an egg into a small funnel; the white should slip through and the yolk remain in the funnel. You can also use your hands - see below.)

  1. To use an egg separator, place the separator on top of a small empty bowl. Choose a bowl just smaller than the separator so the gadget can sit on top of the bowl leaving your hands free.
  2. Crack an egg open and pour the contents over the separator. The size of the holes allow only the white to slip through to the bowl below, leaving the yolk in the separator.

Separate Egg Yolk

Here's an example of an egg separator. When an egg is cracked open and its contents are poured over the separator, the white slips through the holes and the yolk remains behind.

Separate Egg Yolk

Here's another example of an egg separator. An egg is cracked into the bowl.

Separate Egg Yolk

The bowl is tilted and the egg white slips out of the "mouth" opening.

Separate Egg Yolk

The yolk remains behind in the bowl.

Separate an egg using your hands

Your hands can take the place of an egg separator. Be sure they're clean!

  1. Crack an egg open, letting the contents fall in your clean hand.
  2. Separate your fingers so the white slips through, leaving the yolk in the palm of your hand.

Tips for separating eggs

  • If you're separating more than one egg and you want to beat the egg whites to make a soft or hard meringue, it's really important that no yolk get into the whites. The yolk contains fat and even the smallest amount of fat in the white will prevent the white from beating into a foam. To avoid the frustration of "ruining" a bowl of whites with a bit of yolk, it pays to separate the eggs, one by one, checking that there is no yolk in the white before adding the just-separated white to the bowl of whites. Use three bowls to do this: a small bowl to catch the egg whites as you separate each egg individually; a second bowl to collect the whites after you've successfully separated them (this bowl might need to be a little larger depending on how many eggs you're separating), and a third bowl for the yolks.
  • Crack the eggs carefully so the yolks don't break. If it does, reserve the whole egg to make scrambled eggs or an omelette.
  • If a shell fragment falls into the bowl along with the white, use one of the egg shell halves to scoop the piece out.
  • Don't discard the unused egg whites or yolks; place them in freezer containers. Mark the date and the contents (e.g. the number of egg whites or yolks) and freeze for up to 4 months.