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How to Separate an Egg

Four Methods:Separating by HandSeparating with the ShellsUsing a Plastic BottleUsing Other Kitchen Tools

Many recipes specifically call for egg whites or yolks, and many people make egg-white-only dishes to reduce cholesterol. Whatever your reasons, there are plenty of tips that will help you avoid a painful separation.

Method 1
Separating by Hand

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    Wash your hands thoroughly. Scrub your hands with hot, running water and unscented soap, then rinse them off. Besides washing away dirt, this will remove skin oils that can prevent whites from fluffing.[1]
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    Chill the eggs (optional). Cold yolks are less likely to break than warm ones, and easier to separate from the white.[1] If you store your eggs in the fridge, separate them right after taking them out. If you store them at room temperature, you can put them in the fridge half an hour before you cook — though it's not a big deal if you forget.
    • Most recipes call for whites or yolks at room temperature. You can warm chilled, separated egg by placing the bowls of yolks and whites in a pan of warm water (not hot) for 5–10 minutes.[2]
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    Set up three bowls. If you're only separating a couple eggs, you only need two bowls. But if you're separating many eggs, get another bowl to crack the whole egg into. This way, if you break the yolk, you've only lost one egg instead of ruining a whole bowl of whites.[3]
    • The faster method is to crack all the eggs into one bowl and lift out the yolks one by one. It's best to leave this until you've had some practice, since one broken yolk will ruin all your whites.[4]
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    Crack the egg. Crack the egg carefully into the first bowl, taking care not to break the yolk. If you can, you can crack the egg gently, then drop it right into your cupped palm instead — or even crack it in one hand.
    • If you have trouble with shell fragments in your egg, try cracking it against a flat countertop instead of the edge of the bowl.
    • If a bit of shell falls into your egg, pick it out with your fingers, without breaking the yolk. It's easier to get it out with half of the shell, but that increases the risk of salmonella contamination.
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    Let the whites drip through your fingers. Reach into the bowl and cup a yolk, lifting it up. Move your hand over to the second bowl and separate your fingers slightly, letting the whites drip through. Use your other hand to gently pull down thick strands of white if it doesn't fall on its own. If there is still white attached to the yolk, pass it back and forth between your hands until most of the white has dripped into the bowl below.
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    Drop the yolk into the last bowl. Move the yolk over to the last bowl and drop it in gently. Repeat the process with all your other eggs.
    • It typically doesn't matter if the yolks have a little bit of white stuck to the them. As long as the bowl of egg whites is 100% free of yolk, you're fine.

Method 2
Separating with the Shells

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    Understand the risks. Many health experts in the US and Australia recommend avoiding this method, since harmful bacteria on the shell could get in contact with the egg.[5][6] The risk of contamination is much lower in the EU, which has a very effective anti-salmonella program.[7] If you're concerned about the risk, use one of the other methods instead.
    • Cooking yolks or whites until firm makes them much safer.[8] If you plan to serve the eggs runny or raw, consider another separation method.
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    Chill the eggs (optional). Room temperature eggs have runnier whites, which can make this method messy and difficult. Work with eggs straight from the fridge instead.
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    Imagine a line going around the "fattest" part of the egg. This is where you want to make the cleanest crack you can manage. The key with this method is to crack the egg evenly, so you can easily transfer the yolk between the two halves.
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    Start the crack on the egg. Tap the center of the egg gently against a hard object, so a crack forms across about half of the egg. The edge of a bowl is a good surface for getting two equal halves. The edge can also break off shell fragments into your white, though, so a flat counter might be better if your eggs have thin shells.[1]
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    Carefully break apart the shell. Hold the egg over a bowl in both hands with the crack facing upward and the wide end tilted down. Slowly pull apart the two halves with your thumbs, until the egg breaks into two halves. Because the egg is tilted, the yolk should fall into the lower half.[9]
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    Transfer the yolk from shell to shell. "Pour" the intact yolk back and forth between the two halves of the shell. Repeat this about three times, while the white drips over the side of the shell and into the bowl below.
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    Drop the yolk in another bowl. Drop the yolk in another bowl once there are only tiny bits of white stuck to it. If you have more eggs to separate, consider using a third bowl, so a messy crack doesn't drop shell shards or broken yolk into your whites. Separate each egg over this third bowl, then empty the bowl into the other whites bowl before you move on to the next.

Method 3
Using a Plastic Bottle

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    Carefully crack the egg onto a shallow bowl. Start with one at a time, so a broken yolk doesn't ruin your whole plate. Keep a second bowl on the side for the yolks.
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    Squeeze some of the air from a clean plastic bottle. Hold the bottle in this partially crumpled position.
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    Pick up the yolk. Place the mouth of the bottle on top of the egg yolk, and slowly release your grip. The air pressure will push the yolk into the bottle. This might take some practice; releasing too much or too quickly will pull up some of the egg whites as well.[10]
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    Transfer the yolk to the other bowl. Carefully keep the bottle compressed so the yolk stays inside the bottle. Move the bottle over to the other bowl and let go to drop in the yolk.
    • Tilting the bottle a little may help.

Method 4
Using Other Kitchen Tools

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    Crack the egg into a funnel. Put the funnel into the mouth of a bottle, or have a friend hold the funnel over a bowl. Crack the egg into the funnel. The whites should pass through the small opening while the egg yolk remains in the funnel.
    • If the whites get stuck over the yolk, tilt the funnel so they can pass through.
    • This might not work well for fresh eggs, which have thick ropy sections of white.
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    Use a turkey baster bulb. Unscrew the bulb from the baster handle, and you have a suction device the right size for grabbing yolks. Crack the egg onto a plate, then squeeze and let go to pull the yolk up into the baster.[11]
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    Crack the egg onto a slotted spoon. Shake the spoon gently side to side, then up and down, and the whites should dribble through the slots.
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    Buy an egg separator. You can buy a specialized tool for separating eggs from online stores, or from some kitchen supply stores. These come in two main types:
    • A small plastic cup surrounded by slots. Crack the egg into the cup, and rotate the separator so the egg whites fall through the slots.
    • A small suction device. Crack the egg onto a plate, squeeze the suction device, put it over the yolk, and release to suck up the yolk.


  • If pieces of eggshell fall into the egg whites, wet your finger with water, and touch the shell gently.
  • If you're beating the egg whites, such as for a meringue, make sure no yolk gets into the whites. Any bit of yolk will cause the whites not to foam.
  • Try to plan your cooking so you have a use for both the whites and the eggs. For example, homemade mayonnaise is an easy option if you have leftover yolks.
  • Start with fresh eggs whenever possible. The membrane that encloses the yolk weakens over time, so the fresher the eggs, the "tighter" the yolk.[12] Fresher eggs have more tightly folded proteins, which make for stiffer whipped egg whites.[13]

  • Fresh eggs have strong, ropy pieces of white called chalazae. There's no need to pick these out of the other whites, although if you're using them in a soft custard it's a good idea to strain them out after cooking.[14]


  • Wash your hands before and after handling raw eggs to avoid any possible bacterial contamination. Clean all surfaces that will come into contact with the eggs before and after the separation process.

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