Le secret de la mayonnaise

DRESSINGS: The secret to mayonnaise

Most of the time, cooking is 90% technique and 10% creativity. Right now, you’re asking why can’t that be the opposite. Honestly, all crafts require the person to become proficient before exploration, discovery and creativity occur. Sculptures must learn about the tools, the marble, and develop muscle memory before even the concept of a David forms. Artists must learn drafting, spatial relationships, color theory. Writers must write and read. The list goes on.

The truth is, short cuts do not make good crafters. If you truly want to be good at making an emulsion sauce–a sauce that combines two ingredients that shouldn’t go together into something that is creamy–then you must learn the technique. That learning process means accepting you will break the sauce once or multiple times.

Embrace the failure. It will still taste good.

Here is my secret to making any emulsion sauce. Your success depends on your patience when working with the first six drops of oil.

First drop: whisk it into the egg mixture like you are in swimming for the French Olympic team. Second drop: repeat. Third drop: repeat. Repeat the same whisking action with the forth, fifth, and sixth drop. You want to incorporate that oil into the egg mixture completely. Do not try to do a short cut here by pouring all the oil in at once. You will simply have a mess. Drop, whisk. Drop, whisk. 6 times.

Now, drizzle in the oil. Slowly at first, but as you see the mixture thickening, you can increase the amount of oil you pour in. Always a stream, never a flood. Patience makes a good and delicious emulsion.


  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 Tbl apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp dried mustard or prepared Dijon mustard
  • 6 fl. oz light salad oil, warmish, but not hot. Room temperature is good.
  • 2 tsp boiling water


  1. A warmish round-bottomed mixing bowl works best here. Glass or pottery preferred over stainless.
  2. Add egg yolk and beat for 1 to 2 minutes until it is thick and sticky.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, plus salt and mustard.
  4. Beat for 30 seconds more.
  5. Now yolks are ready to receive oil.
  6. Now it’s one drop and whisk, next drop and whisk for the first six drops.
  7. Remember to keep whisking until sauce has thickened.
  8. You can switch hands or switch directions, it makes no difference as long as you beat constantly as you now add the oil in a gentle stream.
  9. Keep your eye on oil rather than on sauce.
  10. Every 10 seconds or so, stop pouring and continue beating to be sure yolk is absorbing oil.
  11. After 3 to 4 ounces of oil has been incorporated, sauce will thicken into a very heavy cream consistency. You can breath easier.
  12. Beat in remaining oil by 1 to 2 tablespoon dollops, blending it thoroughly after each addition.
  13. When sauce becomes too thick and stiff, beat in drops of wine vinegar or lemon juice to thin it out. Then continue with oil.
  14. Beat 2 tablespoons boiling water into sauce. This is an anti-curdling insurance. Season to taste with more apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and mustard.
  15. If sauce is not used immediately, scrape it into small bowl. Lay a piece of parchment or plastic wrap on the surface of mayonnaise so a skin will not form on its surface.

Published by Janet

Chef, teacher, artist, writer

9 thoughts on “Le secret de la mayonnaise

  1. I just reviewed a YA novel you’d appreciate: Elizabeth Alcevedo’s “With the Fire on High”. One of its points is about exactly what you say: learn the rules before breaking out. The main character is shocked to learn that she can’t go on intuition alone if she wants to be a professional chef.

    That’s true about so many things — although, for writing, I’ve always resented the saying that ‘you have to learn the rules before you can break them’. Who made up the rules?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Although for cooks, learning the rules means you can figure out what went wrong–and things always go wrong, I am unsure if that applies to writing.

      I saw that book and I am wondering how I can fit it into my reading schedule. I wonder if it’s on audio. I like to listen to books as I clean. I am reading to Pillars of the Earth via audio. I will be honest. There’s some really hard parts to take in that book.

      Liked by 1 person

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