Shearing. Suspension. Stability. And how to make water and oil get along.
Water and oil are immiscible liquids, meaning they don’t normally mix. The polarity of water molecules — having a positive charge on one end and a negative charge on the other — causes them to be drawn to their own polar kind. Oil is non-polar, which is why you can pour it into a glass of water and see it float on top in a distinct layer.
When you use shearing power by whisking or blending oil and water, for instance in a vinaigrette, an unstable emulsion (mixture of two or more liquids that are normally immiscible) forms. The oil breaks up into tiny droplets that are dispersed into and temporarily suspended in the water. Leave the mixture alone and the two liquids will eventually separate.
To form a stable emulsion such as mayonnaise, you need to add an emulsifier (compound or substance which prevents liquids from separating). In this case, egg yolk does the trick. The lecithin molecule in the yolk forms a chemical bond with each liquid and holds them together permanently.
In making mayonnaise, add the oil to the water and egg yolk very slowly while whisking rapidly so the oil droplets don’t get a chance to coalesce, or bunch up. It might take patience and several attempts to get the water and oil to be best buds, but you’ll end up with a creamy, versatile condiment that tastes better than store-bought. Take a whisk!
How do you make sure your mayonnaise is perfectly creamy and yummy? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below!
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