Add shine and color to your breads and pastries using this easy egg-wash formula.

By Melanie Fincher
July 09, 2020
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Most home bakers are likely familiar with the term egg wash, or a mixture of eggs and liquid that is brushed overtop pastry dough. But just in case you aren't, here's what you need to know: the purpose of an egg wash is to give dough that golden-brown sheen that makes your baked goods look oh-so tempting.

Wait, how does that work? Chalk it all up to science — the protein in the egg promotes browning while the fat in the egg gives you a nice shine. The liquid is just there to help make the mixture a little more spreadable. Which liquid you choose will affect the final outcome, but more on that to come. Here you'll learn how to make an egg wash and use it for all your pastry needs, from pie crusts to dinner rolls and more.

Related: Browse our entire collection of Egg Bread Recipes.

What Is Egg Wash Used For?

When brushed onto a pastry dough, egg wash is going to provide three things: shine, color, and structure. You know that perfectly golden-brown sheen you love on dinner rolls? We have egg wash to thank for that.

But egg wash is good for more than just aesthetics. It can also be used as a sort of glue to help attach two edges of pastry together. Plus, it can help toppings like powder sugar stick to your dishes. Take an extra two seconds to apply egg wash to all your pastry dough and you'll always be happy with the result.

Person brushing egg wash onto pie
Credit: Say Cheese/Getty Images

How to Make Egg Wash

Egg wash is simply a mixture of egg, liquid, and a pinch of salt. But the liquid and egg part is where you'll see some variation. Some use water, while others use milk or cream. Some use whole eggs, while others use just an egg white or yolk. It all depends on what you're looking to get from your egg wash; more on that later. For this basic, all-purpose egg wash, we'll be using water and a whole egg.

Basic All-Purpose Egg Wash Recipe

  1. Crack one egg into a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of water and a pinch of salt.
  2. Beat mixture with a fork until combined.
  3. Use a pastry brush (silicone brushes are easier to clean — like this $9 OXO one) to apply it to your dough.

Egg Wash Variations

Here are some common egg wash combinations. As you'll see, each combination is going to give you a different level of color and shine. In general, egg whites aren't going to give you color, just shine. Whole eggs and yolks are going to give you both more color and more shine.

Liquids also make a difference, but not as much as the egg part. In general thicker liquids (like cream) are going to give you more color and shine, but they can be difficult to spread because they're so thick (especially when mixed with just the yolk). Milk makes a good middle-ground, while water is going to give you lower levels of shine.

  • Whole egg + water: nicely browned, slightly glossy
  • Whole egg + milk: nicely browned, medium gloss
  • Yolk + water: less browned, slightly glossy
  • Yolk + cream: very browned, most glossy
  • Yolk + milk: most browned, medium gloss
  • White + water: less browned, slightly glossy

Ways to Use Egg Wash

Just before sliding your baked goods into the oven, you can brush the top with an egg wash so they'll bake up golden-brown and shiny. Take your lattice pie crusts up a notch with an egg wash. Working with frozen puff pastry? Make the most of your pre-packaged pastry by brushing them with egg wash. And of course, I think everyone can agree that homemade or store-bought dinner rolls are made better with that shiny, golden hue.

Egg Wash Safety

As much as I recommend using an egg wash whenever possible, I would be remiss not to mention the potential safety issues when it comes to handling raw egg. Be sure to clean your pastry brush immediately after use. First, rinse it in cold water to prevent the egg from coagulating. After cold water, you can wash the brush with soap and hot water to sanitize. As mentioned previously, a silicone brush is going to make for the easiest cleanup (plus it won't absorb funky odors).

To avoid cross-contamination, which can lead to Salmonella, wash your hands during and after handling raw eggs. And of course, wash all utensils or dishes used to prepare eggs. Afterwards, be sure to sanitize all surfaces the eggs may have come in contact with.

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