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Food for Thought: The mayo-mania taste test

The L&T C DeGroot
Best Foods left, homemade right

Even I’m surprised that a mayo maniac like me never bothered to make it myself. But after years of reading how the commercial version was such a pale, pathetic shadow of the homemade, I thought I’d give it a shot.

Especially since the recipe I found claimed it was not only foolproof, but could be made in two minutes.

That recipe was J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s Two Minute Mayonnaise made with just an egg, some lemon juice, Dijon mustard, salt and oil. Kenji’s method is to whip the stuff up in a small vessel with a bottom just barely wide enough to admit the head of an immersion blender.

I tried it and was surprised at how quickly it actually turned into mayonnaise. I recruited my wife, the Lovely & Talented C. DeGroot, for a blindfold comparison test with our usual Best foods brand. Then I had her do the same for me. The results?

Eh. We thought it was fine, but hardly the stuff to entice us  away from our commercial favorite. I reported as much to Nancy Lesonin this week’s Food for Thought, and added that I was sure many listeners were thinking I’d either done it wrong or simply had a tin palette. Nance answered that she was one of those listeners.

Here’s her Cook's Illustrated pasteurized recipe for those who fear raw eggs.

Credit Nancy Leson / KNKX
"Mayo ingredients and mayo -- nothin' fancy." -- Nancy

COOK’S ILLUSTRATED MAKE-AHEAD HOMEMADE MAYONNAISE (makes 1 ½ cups) 3 tablespoons water 2 large egg yolks 4 teaspoons lemon juice 1 ½ cups vegetable oil, divided (Nance used canola) ¾ teaspoon table salt ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard ¼ teaspoon sugar Gently stir water, egg yolks, and lemon juice in bowl until no streaks of yolk remain. Microwave, stirring gently every 10 seconds, until mixture thickens slightly and registers 160-165 degrees, 1 to 2 minutes. Immediately add ¼ cup oil, salt, mustard, and sugar; whisk to combine. (Tiny droplets of oil will float to top of mixture.) Strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer into bowl of food processor. With processor running, slowly drizzle in remaining 1 ¼ cups oil in thin stream, about 2 minutes. Scrape bottom and sides of bowl and process 5 seconds longer. Transfer to airtight contain and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Even though I doubt I’ll make my own mayo again, it was fun to try. And there's so much you can do with the stuff. Like griddle your grilled cheese san in mayo for a beautiful brown crust. Do the same with grilled meats. A few drops of Maggi seasoning added to mayo makes a favorite bahn mi dressing. Our former KNKX office manager, Di Buti, loved mayonnaise on hot dogs but even I think that's going too far.

“Life’s like a mayonnaise soda.” – Lou Reed

Dick Stein joined KNKX in January 1992. He retired in 2020 after three decades on air. During his storied radio career, he hosted the morning jazz show, co-hosted and produced "Food for Thought" with Nancy Leson and wrote and directed the Jimmy Jazzoid live radio musical comedies and 100 episodes of Jazz Kitchen.