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why oh why can I not emulsify???

I consider myself a good cook, but I have one area that I absolutely fail almost every time. I cannot for the life of me make mayonnaise, specifically ceaser salad dressing. I have tried every implement available to me (immersion blender, blender, food pro, mini food pro, wisk/hand). I have tried so many recipes and follow them to a T, I have tried, whole eggs, only yolks, coddled and raw. My eggs are fresh. I have added the oil by the drop, by the thin stream and by the glug. I have tried different mustards, including powdered. I am at a loss as to what else to try!!

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  1. The recipe using a food processor in Julia's Kitchen Wisdom seems pretty easy. What happens when you that method or one similar to it? Do you allow your eggs to come to room temperature first?

    2 Replies
    1. re: GH1618

      GH: don't recall if I have done room temperature eggs. I will put that on my list to try next time.

      Is this the method you mean here:


      I notice she says add more lemon/vinegar/spices at the end. I always add at the beginning. will try that too.

      1. re: cleopatra999

        That's the one. All the ingredients should be at or near room temperature.

    2. I can only do it with everything room temp, the immersion blender and a jar *just* wide enough for the immersion blender to fit in.

      1 Reply
      1. re: weezieduzzit

        okay, will definitely try room temp ingredients! thanks!

        1. re: sandylc

          that looks very interesting. And explains why sometimes I get a bitter taste to my dressing (I always use Olive Oil)

          1. re: sandylc

            Tried this method yesterday and it was a total failure. The ingredients never emulsified. Was able to salvage my ingredients by starting over and using the original gloop as the oil. Just did it by hand since that always works.

            1. re: smtucker

              How sad! Kenji's stuff is usually so right on! You should email him....

              Was your jar small enough?

              1. re: sandylc

                I used the one that came with the immersion blender. A viking if that makes a difference.

          2. I think the not-too-round tall container for the immersion blender is key if you're making mayo. I haven't had trouble in several tries with that method, even without drizzling the oil or letting all the ingredients come truly to room temp.

            1. I wrote this post in response to the same question a few years ago. I would cut and paste it here, but the links wouldn't come through in the process:


              Hope this helps, Cleo. In fact, the entire thread above is full of tips.

              1 Reply
              1. re: maria lorraine

                thank you, I will read through and try a few different things. Hopefully one will work for me!!

              2. Aside from the problem of emulsification which numerous earlier posts have addressed, Caesar salad dressing is not a true emulsification in the sense of mayonnaise. One does not need to add the oil to the eggs drop by drop, just put all the the ingredients together in a bowl and whisk by hand. Shouldn't take more than 10 seconds of whisking. A regular or handheld stick blender would be fine if one is making a large amount. The lemon juice, coddled eggs, anchovies and grated cheese will yield a thick and creamy dressing. It is not a dressing that will keep days.

                1. Making an emulsion is kind of like riding a bike or driving a stick shift - once you've got it down, you'll wonder how you ever had so many problems in the first place. And like teaching someone to ride a bike or drive a stick, it can be hard to explain to another person what they're doing wrong, especially if you're not seeing them do it.

                  I'm assuming you're having a hard time getting the sauce/dressing to emulsify in the first place, rather than making the sauce just fine but having problems with instability afterward. BUT, if instability is your problem, EV olive oil could be the cause. I mentioned that in the thread that Maria Lorraine linked to.

                  On to problems with the initial emulsification....

                  Others have suggested starting with room temp ingredients. That's not necessarily a bad suggestion, but I must admit that I've never had problems starting with cold eggs and liquids and room temp oil. So that's probably not the nature of your problem.

                  Instead, here are three general suggestions that should get you there:

                  1. Double the recipe. It's easier to make a large amount than a small amount. This is especially true using a blender, immersion blender, or even a food processor - the risk is that if you make a small amount, the egg and liquid you start off with can sit below the blades and not get fully agitated. You want to make sure the egg and liquid is getting fully and thoroughly blended BEFORE you start adding the oil.

                  2. Add the oil in a slower, thinner stream, especially at first, while blending or whisking. It's easy to add the oil too fast at the beginning, but impossible to add it too slowly - the only risk of adding it too slowly is that you'll get bored. Eventually you'll have a better feel for how slow to go and can be a little more reckless - as Bourdain (and probably others) has said, emulsions smell fear.

                  3. Use more oil. One egg can emulsify A LOT of oil - adding too much can make for a very thick emulsion, but one that is fully emulsified nonetheless. But if you're trying to go low fat and keep the oil ratio low, there is the potential for your emulsion to not fully come together in the first place. Don't stop adding oil before your emulsion comes together, regardless of what your recipe says (okay, if your oil to other ingredients ratio is ~ 5:1 and it still hasn't come together, you can assume the problem lies elsewhere).

                  Incidentally, if you are trying to make low(ish) fat caesar dressing, you can make a simple, full fat mayonnaise on its own, and then use a small portion of that to get the rest of the dressing going, refrigerating the extra mayonnaise. That would be a little more foolproof.

                  1. I'm amazed that nobody seems to have suggested the old chef's trick.

                    Just add a few drops of water just before starting to add the oil.

                    This always does the trick for me.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Yank

                      What emulsions don't contain a water-based liquid in the first place? I can't really figure out how a few extra drops of water right before adding the oil would make much of a difference unless your recipe is problematically low on water-based liquid in the first place.

                    2. When I make mayo I make it this way: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/em...

                      I find that I need to pour it into the fp in the slowest stream possible.

                      I make Caeser much like PBSF. I often do it tableside as guests like that.

                      1. This is an old thread, but I thought I would throw my two cents in. I have made mayo many times, and it has never not emulsified, ever since my first try. One, I always add about 1/2 a tablespoon of lemon juice in before hand - the acid helps the emulsification. Two, make sure you are NOT using EVOO. Use Extra light olive oil. This is imperative. Lastly, as someone else mentioned, pour in the oil VERY slowly. It should take you a full two minutes or more to add in a cup of oil going nonstop. The stream should be as thin as you can possibly make it. There will be a point when it thickens up a bit and you'll want to dump in the rest of the oil. Don't do it! Be patient and keep going slowly until it's gone.

                        Hope this helps someone.