How to Fold Ingredients Together Correctly
If you’ve ever made a cake, there’s a good chance you’ve had to fold egg whites into a batter without deflating them too much. But most people don’t go to culinary school and never learn what it actually means...
If you’ve ever made a cake, there’s a good chance you’ve had to fold egg whites into a batter without deflating them too much. But most people don’t go to culinary school and never learn what it actually means to fold one ingredient into another. As a result, lots and lots of folks end up winging it, with highly variable results.
Folding is not one of those culinary skills that suits a “no technique, no thoughts, just vibes” approach. There is definitively aright way to fold ingredients together, which means that doing it any other way is definitively wrong. Learning the correct technique happens to be very easy. The rules of folding are simple and finite—seriously, if you can trace the letter J, you’re more than halfway there—and once you have them down, you’re set for life. Here’s how to do it.
Start with a flexible spatula and a bowl containing whatever you need to fold together. Drag the tip of the spatula along the inside of the bowl in a straight line, all the way from edge to edge, then rotate the bowl a quarter turn or so. As you turn the bowl, gently bring the spatula up towards the surface of the ingredients and turn it towards the center of the bowl like you’re twisting a doorknob. Think about tracing a capital letter J with your spatula: Drag it straight down, then curve it around and up at the bottom. Repeat until everything folded to your satisfaction/as the recipe requires.
Here’s a great visual representation of flawless ingredient folding for my visual learners:
Just kidding! Sohla El-Waylly actually demonstrates the J technique perfectly in her Food52 video about soufflés. You should always listen to Sohla:
Proper folding technique is useful for so much more than egg whites. It lets you bring dry and wet ingredients together in a flash, perfectly distribute delicate toppings and dressing throughout a salad, and even stir peanut butter a little faster (and not quite so messily). Basically, any time you need to mix ingredients without disturbing them too much, folding is there for you. Just remember to make your Js, and let the bowl do the work.