What is an Egg Wash?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

An egg wash is a coating applied to some baked goods and other foods to create a distinctive finish. Especially in the field of baking, it is often added to breads and sweets to create a glazed look. Egg-brushed bread will also have a slightly more crispy, flaky crust, which is sometimes a desired texture in baking. There are several different types of wash, all of which have a different end impact on the food.

An egg wash can be made from a yolk and egg white or from separated parts of the egg.
An egg wash can be made from a yolk and egg white or from separated parts of the egg.

A very basic egg wash is made by simply lightly beating an egg and brushing it onto the food. Other ingredients, like milk, water, or salt, may be added for a specific finish, and eggs are also frequently separated to make a wash. When one is made from whole eggs beaten with salt, it will be shiny. The addition of milk will cause the shininess to become more matte, while water will create a distinctive amber colored outer coating. No matter what other ingredients are included, the eggs should be as fresh as possible.

Milk may be added to an egg wash.
Milk may be added to an egg wash.

When just an egg yolk is used, the surface will tend to be shiny. The addition of water to an egg yolk produces a golden colored finish, while cream or milk will make it more dark brown. Egg whites, on the other hand, create a crispy surface that may be somewhat crackled. Typically, the color is very light, since egg whites themselves are so pale.

Some recipes specify which type should be used, while others allow the cook to decide which would be best. In addition to being used as a sort of glaze, an egg wash also seals flavors in, and it can be used on foods like egg rolls to seal dough so that the inner ingredients do not spill out during the cooking process. Beaten egg and milk are often used on sweets like scones, while one made with water is used on savory items, like empanadas.

When preparing an egg wash, it is important for cooks to make sure that the egg is completely beaten, since chunks of egg may disturb the surface of the finished product. Using a robust whisk can help a great deal with this. As ingredients are added, the egg should be whisked or whipped to fully incorporate them. Any leftover liquid should be discarded since it could quickly grow bacteria, and more can always be freshly made.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Not what I was looking for at all! For a project at school, I need to find out how the egg wash makes stuff go brown or what is inside it that makes it go brown. Could you please include that?


I looked at a bunch of recipes and it looks like it is 1 egg white OR 1 egg yoke to 2 Tablespoons milk OR water. You determine which ingredients you want for the various finishes. Have fun and whisk it well!


what's the ratios of egg, water, milk or cream?


@Anon76184: For an egg wash, it really doesn't matter -- light cream, heavy cream or half and half will be fine. If you're in the UK, I'd say single cream would do just fine. You just don't want to use something like clotted cream. An egg wash should still be liquid.


there is a scone recipe with an egg wash that requires "egg and cream". i don't know which cream to use, please tell me! thanks!


What method -- milk or water -- do they use to create the lovely looking effects of the Chinese baked buns?


This is what I was looking for! Thank you! Very easy, detailed and specific.


I still don't know when to apply eggwash. I want to decorate using sanding sugar on cardamom braids. How do I make the sugar stick to the loaf?


Thank you! Now my wife will leave me alone so I can watch TV!


I am looking at galette recipes. One says use the egg yolk and water egg wash. The next says use egg white and water. WiseGeek has given me the information to choose the better application: egg yolk and water. Good information!


Answered all my questions about whether or not to use a whole egg and what results to expect with or without water or milk. Excellent.


using the yolks and a little bit of cream makes a great coating on the puff pastry for beef wellington.


Informative. I look forward to trying different mixtures out.


this was highly informative. thank you truly :)

now if only i could sway my mother to expand her baking world.


Absolutely answered any and all questions I had. Thank you.


This was a very helpful article. It explained everything that I had a question about.

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