For Delicious Homemade Mayo, A Whisk Is Really All You Need

Homemade mayo is fresh, glossy, and rich, especially if you use really good eggs. Store-bought mayo just can't compare with a good homemade version, and it's also the perfect way to use up leftover yolks from an egg white wash or meringue. It might be solidly in the category of things you didn't think you could make at home, but it's true — with nothing but egg yolks, oil, and a whisk, you could make mayo right now.

You don't even need fancy appliances. Using a blender, stand mixer, food processor, or immersion blender really cuts a lot of the work out of making large volumes of mayo, sure, but it's not required, especially when making a small batch. The difference between the immersion blender and the old-school whisk method is that you shouldn't dump all the ingredients in at the same time when whisking. You'll need to slowly drizzle the oil into the egg yolk as you whisk to allow it to emulsify properly. 

With a whisk, you'll also have a lot more control than you would with blenders or food processors — enabling you to check and adjust the consistency throughout the process. And if you're incorporating seasonings, spices, or fresh herbs, you can more easily taste as you go too.

So grab a way bigger bowl than you think you need and a balloon whisk, and get whipping. Trust the process, and trust the whisk. 

When and why you should make mayo by hand

There will be times when you can't realistically make mayo with an appliance. Homemade mayo doesn't have the stability and shelf life of store-bought mayo, so it goes bad much more quickly. This means that unless you're going to use a big batch in just a few days — four, according to the USDA — you'll need to make a smaller batch. What you might not know is just how much mayo you can get out of a single egg yolk: at least 1 cup per yolk. And if you don't go through multiple cups of mayo in four days, you'll want to make a one-yolk batch. 

The problem with a one-yolk batch in a food processor, stand blender, or even an immersion blender is that the blades don't properly reach the single yolk, and it will never emulsify correctly. You'll need to add the oil in slowly even with just one yolk, the reason is that you're incorporating the oil into the yolk, not the yolk into the oil. If you have too much oil and too little yolk at any point, like if your appliance blades aren't reaching enough of the yolk and the oil is beginning to pool, it won't emulsify. This is where your whisk comes in to save the day. Whisking by hand allows you to effectively make a one-yolk, 1-cup batch of mayo. It also means you don't have to pull apart your blender to clean it at the end.

Tips for whisking

When making mayo with a whisk, it's important to have the right one. Is there more than one kind of whisk? You bet there is! There are at least 11 styles of whisks. The tool for the job is going to be a stainless steel balloon whisk — its bulbous shape and many-layered tines will give you a fluffier end product. Luckily, it's also the most common type and you probably already have one in your kitchen.

When using the whisk, there's actually a preferred whisking technique, too. When emulsifying, a side-to-side action is more effective than stirring or beating. It produces more shear force, so emulsification happens faster as it pushes the ingredients into each other rather than just swirling them together. When forming the emulsion of your mayo, always whisk side to side. If you're trying to whip more air into mayo that's already emulsified, try a circular beating action for a fluffier finished product — referred to as whipping, this circular beating helps create more volume by introducing and maintaining air channels.