While it would be amazing if every batch of macarons turned out perfect, my experience has taught me that’s not how things usually go. One of the first issues I ran into was cracked macarons.
It was so disheartening to put all that energy into the macaron batter, just to pull out the tray and have all my little shells have giant cracks in them.
While I touch on this briefly in my macaron troubleshooting guide, I wanted to go into a little more depth on this topic.
There are a few different things that can cause cracked macarons and I’m going to walk through each of them in this post as well as how to avoid cracked shells in the future.
Why Did My Macaron Shells Crack?
Cracked macaron shells are most commonly caused by:
- Too hot of an oven
- Under-mixed batter
- Not enough rest time
Let’s talk about each of these in a bit more depth!
Cause #1: The Oven Was Too Hot
In my experience, this is the most common culprit of cracked shells for people who are just starting to make macarons.
So much of making the perfect shell comes down to finding the right temperature and bake time in your oven.
While you might think all ovens are the same, they’re far from it. Ovens can vary a ton when it comes to temperature and hot spots.
That’s why it’s super important to use an oven thermometer. In fact, I always have two thermometers in my oven! One in the front and one in the back.
Some macaron recipes recommend baking at 325 F / 163 C, but my shells crack at that temperature in my oven.
For me, 315 F / 157 C is the sweet spot. At that temperature my macarons bake up with nice, even feet and smooth tops.
However, it’s all about finding what works best for you and your oven. I wish there was an end-all be-all answer on the perfect oven temperature, but it can be slightly different for everyone.
The best way to avoid this in the future is to do a few tests.
Test small batches of shells at different temperatures and see which ones turn out best. I like to do this in 5-degree increments.
You can also bake a full sheet and see if you have any hot spots. I have a hot spot on the back right corner of my oven.
I usually avoid piping shells on that corner of the pan because of this. Otherwise, the corner shells always crack.
Cause #2: The Batter was Under-Mixed / Too Much Air was Trapped in the Batter
Another cause of cracked shells is having too much air trapped in the batter.
This can be caused by over-whipped meringue or under-mixed batter. The two go hand in hand when you think about it.
When there is too much air in the batter, it breaks through the skin of the shell as the macarons bake and causes cracked, hollow shells.
If you think your meringue was over-mixed, try to mix the meringue for slightly less time or at a lower speed to create a more stable meringue with smaller air bubbles.
I like to mix on a medium-high speed (6 on a kitchen aid) for a majority of the time I’m whipping up my meringue.
Or if you think that your batter was under-mixed, try to fold it a few more times or spread the batter along with side of the bowl once the dry ingredients have been fully incorporated.
This will help press out any large air bubbles and create a uniform batter.
Cause #3: The Shells Didn’t Rest Enough
The final culprit of cracked shells that I’ve run into is not letting the shells rest for long enough.
This is the same type of thing as oven temp. There is no magic amount of time that macaron shells need to rest. Even in the same kitchen the rest time can vary based on humidity.
When I lived in NYC, it usually took about 30 minutes for my macarons to form thick, matte skin. However, when I moved to Seattle, I found that on rainy days it can take up to an hour!
Over time I’ve learned to focus on visual and physical cues rather than a set amount of time.
When macaron shells are ready to be baked, they should look completely matte.
They also should be dry to the touch. You should be able to gently run your finger over the top of the shell without feeling any resistance.
A thick skin helps make a strong, sturdy shell. So don’t skimp on the rest time!
If you live somewhere SUPER humid, I recommend using a fan on a low speed or a dehumidifier.
Let Me Know What You Think
If you have any questions about cracked macarons or issues I didn’t cover above, please leave a comment below. Hopefully we’ll be able to figure it out together!
Wednesday 29th of March 2023
Hello! I have a question regarding this…I baked three batches, all at the same oven temperature and bake time. The first two were perfect, but the final batch had half the shells cracked. I baked one batch at a time, in the order that they were piped. What do you think would cause this? Thank you! -Elizabeth
Sunday 2nd of April 2023
That is so annoying!! This is why I always say macarons keep my on my toes.
If I had to guess, I'd say it was just your oven cycling through a heat cycle. It might have heated up a bit more than usual as you opened it again put the last pan in. It's hard to say, because it also could have happened on an earlier tray.
The other thing might be that if you had any meringue that wasn't totally incorporated into the batter on your spatula and you wiped that batter in the bag. It would've probably gotten mixed into the last tray of shells.
Those are my best guesses!