Sorbet.  It's about technique, not recipes.
Sorbet. It's about technique, not recipes.
I might get thrown out of the secret society for this, but I’m just going to come right out and teach you guys a way to make really good sorbet without a recipe. Seriously! I really like sorbet. I prefer fat, honestly, but if I have to have a non-fat dessert, sorbet is the way I want to go. If it’s made correctly and the ice crystals are really, really small, it can taste creamy on its own, without any fat in it. People seem to think that making sorbet is beyond their abilities. I’m here to tell you that it is not. The ingedient list is actually pretty straightforward. Fruit (puree, you can also use some chunky fruit–whatever), simple syrup (you guys know aaalll about that, now), a splash or two of corn syrup or glucose (this will help keep the ice crystals small so your sorbet will be creamy), a splash or two of alcohol (more on why in a minute), salt (of course), acid to balance (lemon juice or lime juice are readily available). And that’s pretty much it. Oh, yeah, and an egg. About the addition of alcohol:  alcohol doesn’t freeze in the freezer. Oh, don’t act so surprised. I know your Jagermeister and your vodka is in there right now, so don’t play innocent with me. And since the alcohol doesn’t freeze by itself, it won’t freeze in your sorbet, either. Just a little splash can make the difference between rock hard sorbet and spoonable sorbet. You can leave the alcohol out, but adding it gives you a little extra insurance. Let’s base this recipe on 16 oz (by weight) of fruit or puree. Here’s how it goes: 1. Mix your fruit juice or puree with 12 oz. simple syrup and a heavy pinch of salt. Stir and stir. 2. Add about 2 TBSP of corn syrup and 2TBSP of alcohol (whatever will go with your fruit). Stir and stir. 3. Taste just for sweetness. You’ll want it to be a little sweeter than you want the finished product to be, because  cold dulls sweet. 4. Add 1 TBSP or so of lemon or lime juice for some tartness to balance the sweetness. You really need this. Sorbet isn’t about knock your teeth out sweet–it’s about a balance of sweet and sour that will enhance the fruit flavor. 5. Taste again. Add a bit more acid or salt, if necessary. Now, here’s where the egg comes in. Let me get out of the pesky numbering so I can tell you about the Secret of the Egg. Okay, there’s a technical term for the amount of dissolved sugars in a solution. That term is brix. There are other scales that measure it, too, and you can read all about it by performing your very own Google search, but suffice to say that determining the brix of a solution will help you determine if it will make a good sorbet. Too much sugar, and it will never freeze. Too little sugar, and it will freeze like a brick. So, Smart Scientists came up different tools to measure brix. One of them is called a called a refractometer. They can cost upwards of $500, although you can find less expensive ones for around $35. If you’re going into large scale sorbet production, please buy a refractometer. You will use it a lot. If you just want to make some sorbet to use up the summer peaches, don’t bother. And here’s why:  A chicken egg will tell you if your sorbet mix contains the proper concentration of sugar. Take a fresh, uncooked chicken egg, wash it well, dry it off, and float it in your sorbet mix. When the sugar is at the proper concentration, a spot about the size of a nickel will float above the surface of the mix. If there’s too much sugar, more egg will show. If there’s too little sugar, the egg will sink, or only show a little bit. Magic, huh? Now, let’s continue with the steps: 6. Float your clean egg in your sorbet mix. If too much is sticking out, add a little water and/or fruit puree. Stir and stir, then try again. If you’ve got a nickel-sized spot of egg showing above the level of your mix, you are good to go. If the egg sinks or shows less than a nickel-sized spot, add another splash of corn syrup and some simple syrup. Stir and stir, and try again. 7. Once you have the right balance, chill your sorbet mix until very cold, and then freeze according to the rules of your particular ice cream or sorbet maker.
DIY refractometers come by the dozen
DIY refractometers come by the dozen
So now, you know the secret. I’ll be sending you your crimson robe in the mail. But I’ll be hiding in an Undisclosed Location.

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  1. Thanks for this. Im a culinary grad., but it’s been a while since Ive made sorbet. Ive recently gotten into making ice creams and sorbets again. Id learned the ol’ egg test ages ago. But Id forgotten how much egg was supposed to show on the surface. I looked up refractometer egg test and found your site. Thanks! I’ll be buying my refractometer soon!

    1. Glad I could help, Jack! Guess the old egg test is just a temporary one for you–if you’re making a lot of sorbet, a refractometer is a justifiable purchase, for sure!

  2. This article singlehandedly saved my son’s first birthday party! I was making a watermelon bombe and making my own watermelon sorbet for the centre. The texture was not coming out right, after trying 2 batches. It was all icy. Thank you for these tips and for a delightful watermelon sorbet!!

    1. Very true, but not everyone who wants to make a lovely sorbet will want/be able to invest in a refractometer. Using a fresh egg that you’ve washed well offers minimal chance for food borne illness unless folks have a compromised immune system. Thanks for pointing that out though; it makes good sense for someone who will be making a lot of sorbet.

      1. Thats so cool. I learned from my chef that a splash of vodka helps alot for the final product of a sorbet, but the egg test, which is new to me, definetly adds an almost fool proof touch. I love it. I just wanted to add, for the clean freaks, wash the farm fresh egg with cheap white vinegar. Your egg will be as clean as your sorbet tastes. Screw john besh!

    1. I’ve always used the nickel-sized measurement, and it has always gone well. Of course, there’s not much difference in size between a dime and a nickel, and I never really measured it. Thanks for the comment. We all do things a little differently, I guess:)

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe and secret.  I watched Chef John Besh today make blueberry sorbet and he used the egg, but I never saw how much of the egg was supposed to show.

  4. I´m really very happy to read all of your text!! Excellent!
    And I´m also one who will now beg to get one ice cream machine!! :-))


  5. Awesome! If you get thrown out of the secret society you can come join my “no recipes” society:-) Alcohol, like bacon makes everything better, so kudos on adding it to your sorbet:-)

  6. I surely hope you don’t get kicked out of the secret society. But this is seriously one kickass secret worth sharing. As usual, very informative. Many thanks 🙂 (Now I’ll have to convince my parents it’s worth it to buy an ice cream maker!)

  7. This is such a secret secret that even I haven’t heard about it before. And I went to chef school, you know. A tiny one, though – in a very secret location! With hooded chef instructors and code names for students.

    Thanks for sharing this, Jenni.


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