Instant Expert: Why Emulsifying Will Change the Way You Eat Salads
What it is: Emulsifying is the blending together of two liquids that don't normal mix — like oil and vinegar. Salad dressing, mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce and béarnaise are just some of the most common examples of emulsified foods.
Why you should care: While you might care less about homemade mayonnaise or béarnaise sauce (and we don't entirely blame you, though they are delicious), emulsifying is the key to a killer from-scratch dressing. And when it comes to flavor, store-bought might be convenient, but it's got nothing on a good 'ol homemade vinaigrette. So kiss your boring oil and vinegar or that goop you call dressing sitting in the fridge goodbye and get ready to emulsify.
How to do it: You've probably noticed that when you quickly mix oil and vinegar together to dress your salad, it doesn't take long for the two ingredients to separate out. That's because they need a bonding agent, or emulsifier, to hold their molecules in place, stabilizing the mixture. Mustard works as such for salad dressing, while eggs are the wonder ingredient for mayonnaise, hollandaise and béarnaise. Tomato paste and garlic can also work as emulsifiers, each having unique characteristics that encourage the water and fat-soluble molecules to combine.
The trick to emulsifying is to slowly add one ingredient to the other while whisking rapidly, suspending and dispersing one liquid throughout the other. For a vinaigrette, you'll first add the vinegar to the emulsifying ingredients and any spices or seasonings and combine well. Then start adding the oil, almost drop by drop to the mixture, vigorously whisking at the same time until the vinaigrette has emulsified.
Ready to give it a go? Here are a few recipes to try:
- Savory Pomegranate Vinaigrette via CaliZona
- Chipotle Honey Vinaigrette via Once Upon a Chef
- Lemon Aïoli via Saveur
- Raw Kale Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette via Just a Taste
- Cilantro Jalapeno Vinaigrette via CaliZona