The Easiest Way To Separate Eggs

No special equipment needed.

separating egg yolk from egg white with hands

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Separating egg white from the yolk is a skill required for some of the South's favorite foods: Airy angel food cakes, delicate meringues, and celebratory eggs Benedict and hollandaise require home cooks to know how to separate egg yolks from egg whites—which is why so many steer away from them when it comes time to plan a menu.

If you've never separated eggs before (or if you've tried and found yourself with a mess of intermingled whites and yolks), then you might wonder whether there's an easier way to accomplish this task. There is.

"I’ve seen all kinds of crazy egg-separating hacks. There are egg-separating gadgets galore, and [I’ve even seen people] try to use a water bottle to suction the yolks [out of the whites]," says Joshua van den Berg, executive chef of Songbird in Austin, Texas.

But the simple truth is that your own two hands are the best possible tools for parting your yolks from your whites, and we're here to tell you exactly how it's done.

How To Separate Eggs Whites From Yolks

There are several ways to separate egg whites and yolks, but we've found the easiest one is with your hands. Here's how to do it:

  1. Crack the egg on the counter or another flat surface. (Why not the bowl edge? Read below.)
  2. Place a medium-sized bowl directly below your hands.
  3. Empty the cracked egg into one cupped hand. Discard the egg shell.
  4. Gently open the fingers of the hand holding the egg.
  5. Slide the egg into the other hand, which also has slightly opened fingers. Let the weight of the egg white separate it from the yolk and drop between your fingers.
  6. Once the egg white has separated, drop the egg yolk into a separate bowl.
  7. Empty the egg white into a separate bowl, and start the process over.

Tips for Making Separating Eggs Easier

Using your hands to separate an egg is, at least to us, the most effortless way to do this kitchen task. But there are a few steps to make it even easier. Keep reading:

Set out three bowls.

Because the entire purpose of separating eggs is to keep the whites away from the yolks, it makes sense to start the process by designating areas to store each part of the egg.

"Set up three bowls—one for the egg you're working on, one to hold your accumulated yolks, and one to hold your whites,” suggests Ashley Schuering, the Nashville-based blogger and recipe developer behind Confessions of a Grocery Addict.

If you’re tempted to use only two bowls (one for whites, one for yolks), Schuering warns against that.

"You never want to separate your eggs directly into a bowl with your other whites for fear of contamination. If even a bit of yolk gets into your whites, they won't whip up into airy meringues," she explains.

That’s why the "current egg" bowl is crucial; you can crack the egg, let the whites run into that bowl, place the yolk in the "yolk bowl," then pour the whites from the "current bowl" into the "whites bowl," therefore removing the risk of contamination.

Always use cold eggs and crack the eggs on a flat surface. 

Whenever possible, try to separate eggs when they are fresh out of the refrigerator.

"Eggs crack and separate much easier when they are cold. The shell cracks crisper, and the yolk is ‘tighter,’ meaning that the yolk won’t break as easily during the process of separating,” says Tiffany Lewis, a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef who's the founder and baker of Cookies With Tiffany in Seattle.

Crack eggs on a flat surface

Lewis also urges you to avoid cracking your eggs on the side of the bowl and to instead use a flat surface (like a clean cutting board or countertop).

"Always crack your eggs on the counter, not the side or rim of your bowl or baking vessels. Egg shards can easily release during contact, making them hard to find in the contents below. The edge of a counter with a purposeful tap is all it should take," Lewis says.

separating egg yolks and white with egg shells

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Other Ways to Separate Eggs

Your hands aren't the only tools for separating eggs. These other tools and techniques can work, too.

Use an eggshell to separate eggs

If cradling the yolk in your palm while sifting the whites through your fingers feels a bit too visceral for your preferences, then you can easily make an egg-separating tool out of the eggshells themselves.

"I stick with the tried and true method of cracking the egg and using both halves of the shell to separate the white from the yolk," says Jeff Carter, executive chef of Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro in Townsend, Tenn. "Just hold the cracked egg over a bowl, and pour the egg in-between the two halved shells, using the edge of the cracked egg to gently persuade the white to separate from the yolk. Keep this method up until the white falls into the bowl and all you have left is the yolk. It's the quickest and cleanest method."

Some store-bought egg separators can be helpful

When we asked the egg experts about the "egg separators" you can find at kitchen stores and craft markets, they generally agreed that these tools aren't strictly necessary.

"The prolific Alton Brown was very outspoken and rallied against 'unitaskers,' or tools that are good at only one job," van der Berg says. "Every time some fancy tool pops up for egg separating, bagel halving, egg poaching, whisk wiping, [what have you], it makes me cringe. Don’t overthink this stuff! Embrace a minimalistic approach in the kitchen, and your cabinet real estate will thank you."

That said, even if a tool isn’t required for a particular task, that doesn’t mean that some home cooks don’t still prefer to have it on-hand.

Keesha O’Galdez, chef/owner of The Gourmet Diva, acknowledges that there can be some perks to using an egg separator instead of your hands or the eggshells: “The benefits of using an egg separator is that it will keep your hands less messy and helps keep the egg yolks intact. If you don't like touching raw eggs, or [if] you make recipes where you can't have a drop of yolk (like meringues or hollandaise sauce), then it may be worth the purchase.

"Egg separators are fairly inexpensive. There are a few styles of egg separators, and it may take trial and error to figure out which one you prefer. A great feature to look out for is if it can hook onto your bowl, so it will leave your hands free," O'Galdez says.

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