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What Is the Purpose of Cream of Tartar?

Updated April 17, 2017

Cream of tartar is a commonly used product in the culinary world. However, many times people find themselves asking, "What is cream of tartar? What is a tartar and how do you get its cream?" No need to question anymore; cream of tartar is a very specific, useful product in cooking.

Cream of Tartar

Potassium hydrogen tartrate is the scientific name for cream of tartar; it actually has nothing to do with dairy; in fact, it actually is an acid salt. The actual cream of tartar occurs when tartaric acid is partially neutralised with potassium hydroxide. This chemical reaction turns it into a salt. Wine making is responsible for cream of tartar, as this salt occurs as a byproduct of wine.

Kitchen Uses

Cream of tartar is an acid and is used because of that quality; it is soluble in water and alcohol. Cream of tartar is also used as an antioxidant for foods. In culinary processes, its most common use is to stabilise and increase the volume of beaten eggs. Cream of tartar prevents the formation of crystals; therefore, it is often used in baked goods, candies, soft drinks and even in photography. Baking powder often contains cream of tartar to add acid to the mixture.

Non-culinary Uses

For domestic uses, cream of tartar is great for cleaning copper and brass cookware. Ants do not cross a line of cream of tartar salt. Sprinkle some around an ant mound and they will not leave that circle. Cream of tarter mixed with a little water can clean rust from fabrics, and, when mixed with hydrogen peroxide, it is n effective cleaner for bathtubs.

Where to Buy

Cream of tartar is always available at a well-stocked grocery store. Find it in the baking aisle grouped with herbs and spices. Many brands are also available online.

Recipe: Perfect Egg Whites

Use 1/4 tsp of cream of tartar for every two egg whites. Beat with a whisk or a blender into desired consistency. Cream of tartar has no flavour, so you get the full flavour of the egg whites. The cream of tartar keeps the eggs from releasing water, providing more volume and more time to work with them. Add a little sugar for a sweet meringue.

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About the Author

Nicholas Ramos was born in Washington, D.C. He is currently a journalism major in Georgia and plans to specialize in law. Ramos has been writing since 2009, specializing in fashion, travel and health.