Adding Oil Too Quickly When Making Mayonnaise Is A Huge Mistake

Making mayonnaise at home is easier than it sounds, especially if you have access to a blender. While on the whole mayonnaise can be a forgiving condiment to make, there are a few tricks to follow and, more importantly, a number of mistakes to avoid in order to end up with actual mayonnaise and not, well, a mess.

One key mistake to keep an eye out for is the speed at which you add your oil — too fast and the whole thing won't come together, also known as "breaking" in culinary terms. It seems like such a simple thing, but there is actually a bit of science behind how and why the oil is added when making mayonnaise.

Mayonnaise is what is known as an emulsion, the product of two seemingly incompatible things being combined to make something new. In this case the base of any mayonnaise (or mayonnaise-like sauce, such as aioli) is an oil and water (in this case the water is the egg) emulsion bound by the lecithin naturally found in egg yolks. Simply combined together and the two will just sit there, oil on top of yolks, never mixing. Combined in the correct way and, voila, you have mayonnaise.

How to add oil when making mayonnaise

To achieve the proper emulsion the oil needs to be whipped into the egg yolks, which is easily done in a running blender. The rapidly moving action of the blender combines the oil with the egg yolks, breaking the oil molecules down into small enough particles to allow them to recombine with the yolks as the emulsion that is mayonnaise.

The danger comes with pouring the oil too fast, which is why a typical mayonnaise recipe will call for adding a small bit of oil at first in a slow, steady stream, increasing the speed at which you add oil as the mayonnaise comes together. Too fast and the process will be overwhelmed, with the oil not having a chance to properly bind with the yolks. Start by adding the oil a teaspoon at a time, increasing the amount and speed once you've added about half a cup of oil and the mayonnaise has started to come together.

There are of course other tips and tricks when it comes to making mayonnaise, and for the true mayo geeks there is a whole world of interesting facts, mayonnaise brand tastes tests, and more to discover. For the home cook however, remembering the tried and true technique of slowly adding your oil as you combine it with the egg yolks is an almost-foolproof way to guarantee a creamy, properly-emulsified mayonnaise that you can be proud of.