Shutterstock / Michelle Lee Photography
Let’s start with the basics. What is cream of tartar? It’s a powdery form of “tartaric acid”–so it’s an acidic substance similar to lemon or vinegar. That’s what makes it worth using in your baking and around the kitchen way more often than you’d expect!
6 Reasons to Use Cream of Tartar
1. Smooth meringue
Add cream of tartar to make a super-smooth meringue! The rule of thumb is 1/8 teaspoon per egg white. The cream of tartar keeps the proteins in the egg whites from sticking together, allowing for a smoother and stiffer consistency. (Here’s 6 more meringue secrets.)
2. Fluffy angel food cake
The same science works when making a perfect angel food cake. Notice how this five-star recipe for angel food cake contains roughly the ratio called for above (1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar per egg white)?
3. Better candy-making
Large, crunchy sugar crystals are the enemy of good candy. Adding cream of tartar helps keep the crystals small! You’ll see this at work in light and airy meringues and homemade candy canes.
4. Baking without baking powder
Started a recipe–and then discovered you’re all out of baking powder? That’s the worst! But baking powder is often made by combining baking soda with cream of tartar. Together, the two form little air bubbles that help make your baked goods light and fluffy. To DIY a substitute for 1 teaspoon baking powder, combine 1/4 teaspoon baking soda with 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar.
5. Prettier steamed veggies
When you add a bit of cream of tartar to water, it lowers the pH of the water. This helps the veggies you’re steaming retain their color.
6. Sparking-clean kitchen
Keep your drains running smoothly by pouring down a four-to-one ratio of baking soda to cream of tartar (you can add salt to increase the volume). It’s that bubbling action at work again! Cream of tartar also removes rust stains and the black stuff on your aluminum pots and pans.
Wait…How Old is Your Cream of Tartar?
Trick question…because it doesn’t matter! Cream of tartar doesn’t spoil, and when kept dry in a sealed container, it shouldn’t expire either. So go ahead and use what you’ve got.