Joined: May. 99
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Here is some useful information on beating (whipping or whisking) egg whites:
Egg whites that are correctly beaten may increase in volume by up to 8 times. They should be extremely smooth and firm, but not dry, forming stiff peaks. They can be beaten by hand or with an electric mixer. A copper bowl is often used, especially by professional chefs. The slight acidity of the copper results in a chemical reaction with the egg whites which helps to stabilize them. If copper is not available, the next best choice is stainless steel. A pinch of cream of tartar per egg white can be added as a stabilizer, replacing the acidic properties of the copper, although adding a little lemon juice or vinegar works well also. A balloon whip or large wire whisk may be used to beat the egg whites by hand. It is extremely important that the bowl and whisk be very clean and dry and that no trace of oil is present. Egg whites will not increase to the desired volume if contaminated with any trace of oil or fat. This is also true if any yolk is present in the egg whites. Plastic bowls and utensils should never be used because plastic tends to hold some oil even after thorough cleaning.
Whole eggs may be separated into whites and yolks immediately after removal from the refrigerator, but the whites should be allowed to reach room temperature (usually about 30 minutes) before beating because this allows the egg whites to increase in volume more rapidly when beaten. However, the egg whites should not remain without refrigeration for more than 2 hours, which includes the preparation time, in order to reduce the possibility of bacterial growth. Egg whites may also be warmed more quickly by placing the bowl of whites over warm water. Egg whites cannot achieve their full volume on humid days so don't expect good results on humid days. If possible, wait until the weather is drier and less humid.
Hope this information helps you out.