Beating egg whites, or albumen, without a mixer can be done almost as easily by hand. Essentially, it is putting air bubbles into the mixture. The egg white protein stretches and forms coverings around the air bubbles, which look like foam. The trick is to beat quickly and stop when peaks form.
Determine how many egg whites will be needed. Decide if you will add ingredients to the egg whites. A pinch of salt, sugar or using a copper bowl will help the eggs to beat more easily. Many recipes call for adding cream of tartar, vinegar or lemon juice.
Purchase fresh eggs, unless the ones you have on hand are very fresh. Chef and author Delia Smith explains that as eggs age, the yolk can break more easily. Any yellow in the white ruins the mix.
Make sure your bowls, containers and utensils are completely clean and thoroughly dried. Ochef.com says that oil residues and water will interfere with the desired results.
Separate the yolk from the egg while the eggs are cold--yolk is less likely to break. Crack the egg on a flat surface. Separate with a special egg funnel or by carefully pouring the white into a bowl from the egg shell. Put each yolk in a separate container--it will prevent contaminating the whole mixture if the yolk is accidentally broken, Smith says.
Let the egg whites stand at room temperature for approximately 15 minutes. Ochef.com says the proteins expand better and give more volume at room temperature.
Take a wire whisk and beat the egg whites in a quick, circular motion--about two rotations per second. Beat for 30 seconds, then add in a pinch of salt or sugar if desired (unless using a copper bowl). Whisk rapidly until foaming begins. Add in cream of tartar or 2 drops of lemon juice or vinegar to help prevent the air bubbles from bursting. Continue whisking until stiff peaks or ribbons form. This process might take up to 10 minutes.
Rescuing the mix if you beat the eggs too much may be possible. Try adding an extra egg white to the mix. If that does not work, add 1 tbsp sugar and beat for 15 seconds. If neither of these work, begin again with fresh egg whites.