3 Rules for Safe Custard

September 16, 2013

Every week, baking expert Alice Medrich will be going rogue on Food52 -- with shortcuts, hacks, and game-changing recipes.

Today: Alice makes sure we know how to keep our custards safe.

Rules for Custard on Food52
Warm custard is a perfect medium for growing bacteria, which means that egg-based mixtures such as ice cream bases, Crème Anglaise, pastry cream, even lemon curd should be treated with care to avoid contact with raw egg. Good habits are not always spelled out in recipes, so here are my rules for custard:

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making custard  making custard

3 Rules for Safe Custard

1. Make it a habit to set a clean bowl and spatula near the stove for the finished custard before you begin the recipe; don’t use either for any interim steps.  

2. Scrape the finished custard into the dedicated bowl using the dedicated spatula: don’t be tempted to repurpose the bowl in which raw eggs where whisked, nor reuse the spatula with which you scraped the raw egg mixture into the saucepan.

3. Don’t let the custard sit endlessly on the counter to cool. Set the bowl in a large bowl of ice water and stir -- unless the recipes says don’t stir -- from time to time to cool it quickly before covering and refrigerating. (Exception: Put warm pastry cream in a shallow container with plastic wrap against the surface to prevent a skin from forming and poke some holes in the plastic to let heat escape faster, then refrigerate.)

Got any other tricks for keeping your egg-based treats safe? Let us know in the comments.

More: Now go make some Raspberry Custard Cups.

Alice's new book Seriously Bitter Sweet is a complete revision of her IACP award-winning Bittersweet, updated for the 54%, 61%, and 72% (and beyond) bars available today. It's packed with tricks, techniques, and answers to every chocolate question, plus 150 seriously delicious recipes -- both savory and sweet.


Photos by James Ransom


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • victoriav
  • sullymorgan
  • Katie Potato
    Katie Potato
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).


victoriav January 29, 2021
Hello Alice,
After adding hot cream to the sugared yolks, is it safe to use to make icecream? Or do you need to add the mixture back into a saucepan? Thank you!
sullymorgan September 16, 2013
I appreciate the safety tips--not something I had considered! after years of stove-top custards, I recently discovered that my vitamix makes perfect custard every time! Usually about 7 mins, more or less depending on the type of custard and starting temperature of the ingredients. Ice creams, curds, pastry creams, etc. No sieves or stirring necessary, and it's quick to make and clean up, and really forgiving!
Katie P. September 16, 2013
I like the trick from Jeni's ice cream book of putting the cooked base in a ziplock bag, which can be fully immersed in ice water. I'm sure it would work for custard and pastry cream too.

p.s. I adore your cocoa brownies!