9 Ways to Unlock the Power of Mayonnaise

9 Ways to Unlock the Power of Mayonnaise
Graphic: Elena Scotti,Photo: Getty Images,Photo: Shutterstock

The whitest thing about me — and there are a lot to choose from — is how much I love mayonnaise. I think it’s great. Not only is it an essential part of nearly every sandwich, it can be mixed in or spread on a whole variety of foods to excellent, delicious results. Even if you consider yourself a proud mayo-hater, I encourage you to take a peek at the following suggestions and recipes, some of which you “can’t even taste the mayo” in. Trust me, as a white lady from northern Mississippi, I know what I’m talking about.

Make your own

Photo: A.A. Newton Photo: A.A. Newton

I have nothing against store-bought mayo, but homemade mayo is in a league of its own. Whether you want to make a tangy Duke’s-style spread (I like to add extra paprika), a smoky duck fat-based mayo, or something a little wild like cheese mayo, the only special tool you’ll need is an immersion blender, which makes the process easy and breezy. (Don’t have an electric mixing implement of any kind? Don’t worry. We have a guide for making mayo without a blender.)

Brush it all over a chicken

Photo: Claire Lower Photo: Claire Lower

Mayo is an emulsion of egg, oil, sugar, and some sort of acid, and that combination of ingredients makes it an excellent browning agent for poultry skin. Just brush it on before roasting and let those proteins and sugars transform that flabby outer layer into something crisp and crackling. If you’re worried about tasting the mayo, don’t. It doesn’t add much, which is why I like to mix in a little Worcestershire sauce or crumbled bouillon before brushing it on the bird.

Spread it on your breakfast sandwich

Photo: Claire Lower Photo: Claire Lower

For some reason, people don’t treat breakfast sandwiches the way they treat other sandwiches. They fear condiments (and pickles), which can lead to one relying too heavily on egg yolk for lubrication and flavour. Though a yolk can act as a sauce of sorts, its application on a sandwich is uneven at best. What about the yolk-less portions of the sandwich? Should they be left all dry and sad? No. No way. Add a swipe of mayo and let that sandwich sing.

Blitz some wilted herbs in there

Photo: Claire Lower Photo: Claire Lower

Wilted, pathetic-looking herbs still have a good bit of flavour trapped inside their cellular walls, and you can free that flavour by blending them into some mayonnaise, even if they’ve turned to mush. Aim for a ratio of one cup of mayonnaise for every cup of roughly chopped herbs and alliums. If you’re dealing with woody guys (like rosemary or thyme), remove the leaves from the stems, but tender herbs can be tossed in whole.

Make better mashed potatoes

Photo: Claire Lower Photo: Claire Lower

There is always some knee-jerk, anti-mayo backlash to this particular hack, but trust me when I say that a few tablespoons of this excellent emulsifier will up the creaminess factor in your mash like you wouldn’t believe. (Also, you won’t be able to taste it. My stepmom has been adding mayonnaise to our mashed potatoes since I was a child, and I didn’t know until 2016.)

Brush it on seafood and steaks before grilling or searing

Photo: Arina P Habich, Shutterstock Photo: Arina P Habich, Shutterstock

Whether you are cooking fish, shrimp, or steak, brushing a little bit mayo on the outside of those proteins before tossing them on a hot grill or skillet can promote browning and discourage sticking at the same time. Mayo’s gel-like makeup means you can put it exactly where you want it, without the risk of oily splash-back, and keep more delicate foods like salmon or prawns from getting torn up on the hot metal. For heartier proteins like steak, it creates a most excellent crust.

Use it to bread some nuggets

Photo: Claire Lower Photo: Claire Lower

Mayonnaise is an excellent breading substrate. Rather than dipping in egg and/or milk, you can paint it on your chicken pieces in a completely even layer, meaning nary an inch of nug goes un-breaded. You can also season the mayo directly, giving an extra layer of flavour to your nugs and tenders.

Use the almost empty jar to make a salad dressing

Photo: Claire Lower Photo: Claire Lower

Replacing or supplementing your salad oil with a bit of mayonnaise, you can makes for a creamier, dreamier vinaigrette. Incidentally, the “last bit” of mayo that clings to the sides of the jar is usually the perfect amount, and you can use the almost-empty jar to shake all of the ingredients together.

Make a creamy, lemony, super savoury marinade and dressing

Photo: New Africa Photo: New Africa

Mayo makes a pretty good marinade, especially when combined with extra-savoury miso, garlic, and lemon. The combination also makes a stellar dip and sandwich spread — try it on your next burger, or your next crudite platter, or your next batch of grilled chicken breasts if you don’t believe me. It just might make you appreciate everything the sauce has to offer

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