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Defeated by Mayonnaise, my nemesis

I need some help with basic technique. I had a mayo disaster and ended up throwing out several cups of olive oil and a half dozen eggs. Can anyone give me advice or point me to some good videos? I know this is super simple, which is why it is so frustrating!
I've made mayonnaise in a blender before and it worked fairly well, though I wasn't really sure what the texture should be like. It was much runnier than the store bought version, but tasted good with some fresh herbs mixed in. Also, the color is more yellow than creamy. Is that normal?
I recently tried to make mayonnaise again with a recipe that called for egg yolks and olive oil (no canola). I tried to do it be hand with a whisk first. The egg yolks were very fresh and a brilliant yellow, so the mayo took on a very bright color. After whisking away for five minutes or so, the mayo broke and I was left with clotted egg and oil. I tried to resuscitate it with another yolk, but had no luck. It was still clotted and gooey. I turned to the food processor with another yolk, and it only made matter worse. So I threw out that batch and started over with the food processor. I was so afraid of the mayo breaking that I stopped while it was very runny.
I know the general technique of adding oil a drop at a time.
I am wondering what could have gone wrong.
Was it because of the super fresh eggs or the olive oil?

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  1. If you do hand whisk it you still have to drizzle in the oil, you can't just dump it in. With olive oil mayo you're going to want to use light olive oil instead of regular or extra virgin or else it's going to taste grassy (unless that's the flavor you're going for, some like it) and yes, olive oil will be pretty yellow, even light. I always make my mayo in the food processor and with the drizzling I've never had one break yet. Hope that helps.

    1. I haven't made mayonnaise before, but I like the videos from Rouxbe, and they have one on mayo: http://rouxbe.com/recipes/85-homemade...

      It does say that the mayo should be yellower, and a different consistency than store-bought.

      1. Even with the food processor, I drizzle the oil (whatever I'm using) in.

        Were all your ingredients at room temperature? If they're any colder than that, you'll have runny mayo, for sure.

        I often use all extra virgin olive oil, and it works just fine.

        Here's a recipe that's pretty close to foolproof. You can use all olive oil if you'd like.

        Basic Mayonnaise

        1 egg yolk
        1 teaspoons Dijon mustard
        pinch each sea salt & white pepper
        2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
        3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
        1 ½ cups vegetable oil (such as soy or safflower, which have no flavor)

        1. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, put egg, mustard, salt and pepper, lime juice and olive oil. Turn on motor to blend the mixture. Leave the motor running, and dribble the vegetable oil in a slow steady stream into the mixture. (When all the oil has been absorbed, your mayo is finished.)

        2 Replies
        1. re: ChefJune

          the processor mayo shouldn't break. craig claiborne reminds folks to pulse the yolks in the machine for only a "split second" and then to start drizzling oil. allowing the oil to flow in thru one of the two holes in the processor top manages the pace of the drizzle nicely. after about half of the oil is incorporated, things are less critical and a two-hole drizzle is fine. i add acid to the finished mayo, not to the yolks/mustard.

          1. re: silverhawk

            That is the method I use as well and I've never had a problem.

            All ingredients must be a room temperature.

            I would never attempt making mayo by hand. What a whipping, literally and figuratively.

        2. Mayo made from fresh egg yolk will always be a bit yellow. But that should be a *good* thing and get you excited about the flavor, authenticity and freshness.

          I learned to make it by hand. We used an egg yolk mixed with a tiny bit of prepared mustard as an emulsifier. Beat them well then start drizzling in your oil. If you want olive oil then use that but I'd use a neutral flavored oil like sunflower myself. Drizzling is *very* important. In a processor you can use that little well with the hole to regulate that for you. By hand you need to be deft or have a second pair of hands. The downside of a processor is you have to make *so* much to get the volume of yolks up where the blades can spin them that you lose the freshness factor using it all up. When you've successfully gotten an emulsion going -- you'll recognize the volume and smooth consistency -- you can add the oil a little more quickly. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice at the end was supposed to keep it stable. Not sure whether that was a superstition -- like only turning the whisk in one direction -- but I was young and working with poor French so I did what I was told. ;>

          2 Replies
          1. re: rainey

            I make it by hand in a very similar way as rainey.
            I always take the egg and mustard out of the fridge half an hour before. Was told that if they were too cold, the mayo does not take.
            It is better to use a flattish bowl instead of a deep bowl.
            And of course start with very little oil. I tend not to use olive oil because of its fulsome taste.
            I customize my mayo two ways:
            If it is for my hubby poo's sandwich, I put in a lot of mustard. It's just a better "sandwich mayo".
            If not, I put in one Tbs mustard for one egg yoke.
            In the end I like to put in a handful of dried sautéed garlic, not only for the taste. The oil - or something - in it really helps the consistency.
            Sometimes I add a little lemon juice in the end too. Was told that the function of the lemon juice was to "bleach" the yellowish mayo.

            There is the strangest French lore about making mayo:
            Many in France maintain that if the woman making mayo has her period, then her mayo won't take. Is that weird or what.
            (For the record, it's not true .)
            But if you read French and think I am deranged, read this:
            http://forum.aufeminin.com/forum/cuis...

            1. re: Parigi

              I never heard that one but the one about only whisking in one direction is definitely French.

          2. There is a hard, medium, and super easy way to make mayonnaise. All share the ingredients of egg yolk(s), vinegar or lime juice, neutral oil (olive is too strong for me), a bit of mustard (key ingredient), and some salt.

            1. Hard way: put the egg yolks, vinegar/lime juice, salt, and mustard in a bowl and start whisking. Add a drop of oil with your third hand (the first is holding the bowl and the second is whisking) and continue whisking. Initially add oil a drop at a time until you're sure that the oil is emusifying. Lots of vigorous whisking required.

            2. Medium: put ingredients into a blender, blend, add a drop of oil, then a thin drizzle as the mayo forms.

            3. Easy: place all ingredients, including the oil, in a hand immersion blender cylinder and blend. Perfect, easy mayo evbery time. People often don't believe that this method is possible until I show them.

            Result: thick, stable, tasty mayo.

            10 Replies
            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              I've always made mayo by hand using a whisk and a bowl and have never had a problem. I think the secret is drizzling in the oil VERY slowly, always making sure that what you have already added is completely incorporated before adding more. I like a mix of neutral oil and EVOO. If you use a heavy bowl and place it on a towel, the bowl will be stable and you will not need that third hand. I tried once using all neutral oil and a food processor, got a result very similar in taste and texture to good quality commercial mayo, which made me wonder why I bothered.

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                I throw my wholehearted support behind Sam's third suggestion. I'll never make it any way other than with an immersion blender and its container. Saw it on an infomercial when I was a kid as they were making their way to home kitchens in the '80s. It really, really does work.

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  I have a very powerful immersion blender (Kitchen Aid) so I might try this. I've just gotten used to the food processor.

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    now why didn't I think of that? I have a spanking new immersion blender, and I am going home and try it out tonight!

                    Thanks, Sam. ;)

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      I've only ever made mayo by hand using a whisk and really do think that "hard," in this case, is really relative. Oh sure, it is harder than #3 (I should try that - my mother bought the immersion blender, that I stole from her, because it made mayo so easily in a demo), but making mayo by hand is pretty easy. I've never needed that third arm, and I'm also fairly liberal with interpreting "a drop of oil at a time," too. :)

                      I personally think #2 is the hardest way. All that clean up time?! Hate cleaning blenders.

                      1. re: Ali

                        Yeah, yeah, yeah ... I was trying to relay my empathy to the OP. It is not "hard' to make mayo the traditional way I learned; but the easy way is so easy that it should help anyone having trouble. With the easy way, I make mayo maybe twice a week in one yolk batches and with different flavor additions.

                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          Sam, what proportions of ingredients do you use? Examples given in this thread vary widely.

                          1. re: Sharuf

                            I don't measure. But for one egg yolk, one-two TBSP of lime juice/vinegar, small tsp of mustard, big pinch of salt, and start with maybe a half cup of oil? Add more oil once the first batch of ingredients has emulsified.

                      2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                        I concur with the third suggestion except that I usually pour the oil in slowly with a cooking "squeeze bottle."

                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          It's worth my getting a new immersion blender just to do #3. I don't know why it never occurred to me to do it that way.

                        2. "Super fresh eggs" is always a good thing for mayonnaise.

                          I've made mayonnaise with a whisk and an immersion blender because I generally don't need the industrial quantities that a food processor or a blender would generate.

                          Egg yolk, a little mustard (if I need it for that application), very slow addition of oil, lemon juice at the end (again, if I need it). You can also add a little bit of soy lecithin if you have some to help stabilize the emulsion.

                          The end product's always a shade of yellow, though I do know of at least one company that is developing a bleaching enzyme for pre-processing egg yolks because people object to having mayo that's not white.

                          1. Am I the only one here who uses whole egg? In the Cuisinart, one great big egg, 2 Tbs lemon juice and/or vinegar, 1 Tbs of oil, 1 tsp of mustard and a pinch of salt. In the measuring cup 6 oz each of canola and extra-virgin. Start machine, run about fifteen seconds, pour 4 oz of the oil into the pusher (which has a metering hole at the bottom). After that all runs out, remove pusher, start trickling in oil. If everything was at the correct temperature and the atmospheric humidity is low - typical SoCal weather - there will be a nice cream-colored and quite thick mayonnaise in there. If I have dropped a peeled garlic clove into the running machine before I put everything else in, it will be not only pretty but delightfully fragrant.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Will Owen

                              Whole egg is easier for the blender/food processor method.

                              1. re: PBSF

                                Yes, I wouldn't even attempt hand-whisked mayo using a whole egg. There was a lengthy discussion awhile ago here about mayo (and I promised myself I would never read another mayo thread after that one but here I go) and using whole eggs vs. egg yolks. The vast majority of recipes I've read use just yolks, but a machine like a FP, blender or even an immersion blender, makes quick work of emulsifying a whole egg.
                                I also like a blend of oils; I prefer soybean and olive 1:1. I find straight olive oil creates a rather stongly flavored mayo, unless that's what you want for a particular dish.

                                I didn't see this mentioned here but hand-whisked mayo is never as thick as commercially made, and FP or made blender are definitely thicker but not quite as much Hellman's. Not really a problem, in my opinion. I haven't tried a kitchen-size immersion blender, just the big boat motors used in restaurant kitchens to make literally gallons of mayo, and do they.

                                Making homemade mayo work is one of those things that a little practice will fix and a little technology in the form of a small kitchen appliance like an immersion blender, will cure.

                              2. re: Will Owen

                                i've had a friend's whole-egg mayo and i prefer my yolk-only mayo. his was edible but maybe he made a mistake somewhere - i felt there was a weird 'raw-chicken' vibe.

                                besides, it's always a good excuse to make meringue with the egg-whites after i use the yolks for mayo.

                              3. There isn't much of of a secret for hand whisk mayonnaise. Depending on the color of the yolk, hand whisk mayonnaise should be very pale yellow and very thick. It has a better mouthfeel than blender/food processor one. It tastes creamier without that 'sleek' feel.
                                A good starting point is 3/4 cup oil for each egg yolk.
                                Have all the ingredients room temperature.
                                Whisk the egg yolk until thick. Whisk in lemon juice and salt. Very slowly start dribbling the oil while whisking. After about a third of the oil, the mixture should start to thicken. If it is still thin, you have added the oil too fast and your mixture will not thicken, therefore, start with another egg yolk and very slowly add the thin mixture back while whisking.
                                After the mixture gets thick, you can add the oil a little faster. If gets too thick or looks like it is about to break, whisk in a tablespoon of cold water. That should loosen the mayonnaise and stabilize it. That little water will also allow you to add more oil, making the mayonnaise less eggy if that is what you want.
                                I use my Kitchenaid with the wire attachment for mayonnaise. It is as good as hand whisk but one has to start with at least 2 egg yolks for the 5qt mixing bowl.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: PBSF

                                  "It has a better mouthfeel than blender/food processor one. It tastes creamier without that 'sleek' feel." That's a value judgement. I like sleek, and I'm sure some others do too. It's satin vs. muslin. Pick what you like, and make your mayonnaise accordingly.

                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                    No disagreement on that. Value judgement is what food is all about. That is why some make mayonnaise using a hand whisk, others use a food processor while others buy Best Food or Hellman's.

                                    1. re: PBSF

                                      I found the statement "It tastes creamier without that 'sleek' feel." certainly a different description for mayo than I've heard; I've always felt that hand made mayo is not as creamy as one made in a FP; as for sleek, I have trouble thinking of any foods that are sleek, in the mouth, anyway.
                                      Slippery, sure, silken, slick, smooth, yes.

                                      As for which mayo I like better, all of them. I guess that's just my value judgement talkin'.

                                      1. re: bushwickgirl

                                        Hellman's/Best Foods is my fave for "boughten", but I like the less tangy, more eggy taste of my Cuisinart stuff, especially when it's loaded with garlic. I'm not a big fan of the taste of canola oil, but combined with the olive oil it comes up tasting kind of nutty, so of course I like it ;-)

                                        My mom's family's Authorized Standard Potato Salad Recipe - ratio of 1 egg to 1 potato to 1/4 onion, S&P, bind with mayonnaise - is something I've tried over and over to improve on, but the ONLY way I've been able to do that is by using my own mayonnaise.

                                  2. re: PBSF

                                    I don't find that much difference in taste or texture among mayos made using the different methods. But I prefer quick and thick, so use the all ingredients at once plus immersion blender. Plus my macho is already at rest: I can make hand whisked as easily as anyone else. So there.

                                    [insert sideways grinning moron icon to indicate humor]

                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      Quick and easy is always good. My was just a response to the OP questions of on hand whisk mayonnaise. I have a big jar of Best Food at all times. Having to refer "my macho being at rest" and using an immersion blender does say something.

                                  3. It's nice to see so many proponents of the immersion/stick blender.

                                    I'll never forget my first attempt at age 18, using a recipe and a blender. And dammit it worked, and I was amazed, and the taste and texture of that first incredulous fingerfull was so so delicious.

                                    There's something about nailing a good emulsion that is so satisfying on so many physical and metaphysical levels.

                                    Stick blender: get one. If you're broke you can find 'em for five bucks at a thrift store. Best tool for mayo, and also for easily adding fiber to your diet with semi or full pureeing of soups, making nut butters, etc.

                                    Here's my semi-detailed technique for mayo from a previous post. If still intimidated at the absolute ease of this process, google for vids. But don't give up because it will work.

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3513...

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: FoodFuser

                                      I would also suggest, unless you have no electrical outlets near your stove, to get one that isn't only battery operated. I had a Cuisinart one that burned out pretty quickly. The inexpensive Target one I bought my FIL is still going strong after years.

                                    2. A Basque friend of mine who is a brilliant cook told me of Sam's immersion blender method and described it the way Sam did. ONly she used a tall thin beer glass for hers.

                                      I came home, tried it, failed. Tried it again, failed again. And again, failed.

                                      So I resorted to my hand-whisked method, which is almost fail-safe. And very easy.

                                      But, if the mayo does break, don't toss all those eggs and all that olive oil in the bin. Start again with a yolk and a drop-by-drop pour of whichever oil you like to use. When the emulsion starts forming, instead of adding oil, drop by drop, add the 'broken' mixture. It will emulsify as if you were doing it with oil alone.

                                      Then continue until you have the volume, the consistency and the taste you like.

                                      To lighten the color, add a few drops of recently boiled water, no more than a tablespoon or you'll get back to a runny consistency. But the water will turn it from yellowish to creamy colored.

                                      Sean

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: aguy239

                                        Believe it or not, it's actually very easy for a mayonnaise to break in a food processor, as I found out the hard way after several batches of broken mayonnaise at work. I finally realized that the larger the batch you're making, the more time needed to drizzle in the oil, which means the motor has to run for a longer period of time. The longer the motor runs, the hotter it gets, which heats up the bowl (and its contents) and breaks your emulsion. Fortunately, it was an easy matter to fix the mayonnaise by starting with an extra yolk in a clean bowl, and ladling in the broken mayonnaise a little at a time while whisking.

                                        I would like to try Sam's method with an immersion blender and all the ingredients (including the oil) in the blending container. I've seen cooks makes massive batches of mayo with a professional Bermixer, but they've always drizzled in the oil.