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Is is true or an urban legend that if you whisk the opposite way while making mayonnaise (after you've whisked in one direction for a while), the mixture will be "undone" into its components?

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3 Answers 3

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Welcome to the world of urban legends and old wives' tales.

Handmade mayonnaise can be a fickle thing to create if you don't work within the laws of physics and chemistry and don't achieve the desired emulsion. So like with other tricky processes, many "rules" have developed, that are more myth than method. (I was even told once to "always stir counter-clockwise"...)

If you think closely, it becomes obvious that an emulsion - for mayonnaise, tiny particles of oil suspended in water - is something completely different from tiny strands of something. One can not "unwind" or separate by stirring in the opposite direction.

My personal theory for the origin of the "don't change direction" rule is that if you constantly stir in one direction, you reach some kind of "flow state" and work in a steady rythm - the latter being far more important for a good whipping or stirring result than any direction. And that the rule predates the use of electric kitchen equipment, going back to the times where all whipping was done by hand.

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    Stephie - Your theory is on track. See the answers to this question for interesting info about stirring in one direction. cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/50397/….
    – Cindy
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 14:49
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    And perhaps the "always stir counterclockwise" would have similar positive effects on steadiness if the person is right-handed, which in olden times was enforced.
    – Kroltan
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 18:35
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    @Kroltan I had to run a few experiments (stubborn streak, aehm...) and no, I found no significant difference in steadiness. ^_^
    – Stephie
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 18:38
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    youtube.com/watch?v=qs_Bq9C9LMI have you seen this? Sometimes you can un-mix things by changing directions. And that's a fact, illustrated on a movie. Now, perhaps it does not apply yo mayo, but there must be a reason for it not to apply, when this is generally within realm pf physical possibility.
    – Mołot
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 14:10
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    @Mołot - I don't think you can actually un-mix things... perhaps un-smear them (that is, gather up again into a single place) but only if they are still separate. I think the viscosity difference in that video was enough to keep the colors from being mixed, just smeared in streaks thin enough to seem translucent so it looks muddy from the side. I bet if one looked at the top, it would be separate rings or spirals per color, which get gathered together when "unwound".
    – Megha
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 2:19
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This is an old chef's tale. The important things when making the emulsion that is mayonnaise are that the oil is evenly dispersed and that it is broken into the smallest possible droplets. The direction of whisking has no effect on those factors.

In fact, I find that a back-and-forth (zig-zag) whisking motion works best, especially when getting the mayonnaise started. This lets the utensil continually hit and break up the oil, mixing it much more thoroughly than circling around the bowl.

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  • America's Test Kitchen did experiment different kind of motions and came to similar conclusion that back and forth works better: youtube.com/watch?v=zglSRFlFH-s
    – Agos
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 9:59
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its only a joke like sending your wife to the auto parts store for muffler bearing or the paint store for camouflage paint. some one just having fun with you. loner

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