Cream of tartar, scientifically known as potassium hydrogen tartrate, is a white, powdery byproduct of winemaking. Forming as crystals on the inside walls of wine barrels, this odorless, acidic compound is an essential baking ingredient that boasts numerous culinary applications.
In cooking, cream of tartar stabilizes egg whites in meringue, and prevents sugar crystallization in frostings and candy. It also acts as a natural leavening agent in combination with baking soda. Aside from baking, cream of tartar acts as a natural cleaning agent for brass, copper, and even porcelain surfaces.
When using cream of tartar in cooking, much confusion arises when people don't have it on hand or misunderstand its purpose. Cream of tartar acts as a stabilizer, prevents sugar from crystalizing, and acts as a leavening agent when combined with baking soda. Also, it's important to note that cream of tartar cannot be replaced on a 1-for-1 basis with other acids such as vinegar or lemon juice, because it is a dry ingredient and these alternatives are liquids. Always adjust your recipe accordingly when making substitutions.
In terms of getting the most out of this ingredient, cream of tartar can be utilized to enhance simple dishes. Adding a small pinch to vegetables while boiling them will help maintain their vibrant colors. Sprinkling some on cookies, cakes, or sweet breads prior to baking will create a pleasing sour taste that beautifully contrasts with sweet flavors.
One lesser-known trick of using cream of tartar involves the cleaning of kitchen utensils. Make a paste with equal parts of cream of tartar and water, and scrub this mixture on the tarnished spots of your brass or copper utensils. Rinse thoroughly, then buff with a soft cloth for a clean, shiny surface.
Is there a substitute for cream of tartar?
What does cream of tartar do in cookies?
Can cream of tartar go bad?
What can I do with leftover cream of tartar?
What does cream of tartar do in baking?
Why does my cream of tartar have lumps in it?
How do I use cream of tartar in drinks?
Can I use cream of tartar in savory dishes?
Is cream of tartar gluten-free?
How should cream of tartar be stored?
Expiration & Storage Tips
When does cream of tartar expire?
Cream of tartar is one of those ingredients that essentially has an unlimited shelf life, as it doesn't spoil or go bad. Even after years, it typically remains just as potent and effective for your baking needs. Unlike baking powder or soda, it doesn't lose effectiveness over time and therefore doesn't have a 'best by' or 'use-by' date. However, if it's been exposed to too much moist or humidity, it may clump up, though this doesn't affect its functionality.
How do you tell if cream of tartar is bad?
With cream of tartar, it's difficult to tell if it's gone 'bad' because it doesn't actually spoil. However, if it's been compromised by water or humidity and clumps up, you can break it down with a fork or sift it. Any presence of mold, an off-smell, or changes in color, which are highly unusual, could indicate contamination and it's probably best to replace it.
Tips for storing cream of tartar to extend shelf life
• Store your cream of tartar in a cool, dry area away from direct sunlight.
• Make sure the lid or cap is always sealed tightly to prevent moisture from coming in contact.
• You can also store it in the refrigerator, ensuring to keep it well-sealed to avoid moisture.
• Should it clump due to slight moisture exposure, simply break it down before you use it, no harm done. Remember, clumping doesn't indicate spoiling!