While I've been making it for years, hollandaise remains a fussy, error-prone sauce where the slightest error in technique, measurement, or timing results in an oily mess and a huge waste of expensive butter. I've tried the blender hollandaise, the immersion blender hollandaise, and of course classic double-boiler hollandaise, and all of these take way too much time and fail way too often (for example, Kenji neglects to mention in the 2-minute hollandaise that those 2 minutes do not include the 10-15 minutes required to clarify the butter, and that if you try to double the recipe it'll fail). And, of course, there are cheater hollandaise recipes that are completely reliable, except that they look and taste nothing like the actual sauce.

Is there a way to cheat at hollandaise, using stabilizers, additives, or alternate ingredients, that tastes approximately correct, always works, and scales up or down easily?


it all “boils down” to setting the sauce at the right temperature. To make it fool-proof, you need precise temperature control, which you can achieve with a sous-vide setup.

To make sous-vide hollandaise, you just need to combine all your ingredients together and cook at 75°C for 30 minutes (these figures are from a chefsteps recipe, you can play with the numbers to get to your desired consistency), and blend them while they are hot to finish your sauce.

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    Hmmm, this is an interesting approach, and looks like it would work with an improvised sous vide setup. – FuzzyChef Jan 6 at 20:13

A very important thing is to add some water (or lemon juice/vinegar/stock) to the yolk before starting with the rest of the emulsification.

This is something that Ruhlmann explains in more depth in Ratio. The short version: A hollandaise is a oil-in-water emulsion. It is started from the egg yolk, which provides the initial water phase, and an emulsifier in the form of lecithine. But it also contains solids and other fat, giving you very little water phase to work with. So frequently, the emulsion "switches" and becomes water-in-oil.

The maximum ratio of oil to water was found to be 7 ounces to 2 teaspoons, or about 200 ml of oil per 10 ml of water. Use less oil to be on the safe side, and, as mentioned above, start with the water phase (liquid plus yolk) and add the oil on top.

The ideal temperature is 72 Celsius, and you are indeed working with small limits, especially if you are also adding acid. But they are not absolutely tiny, +-10 C is still entirely reasonable for making hollandaise. There is no way to work around the fussiness there. Just use good temperature control. A common failure mode here is to use a double boiler such that the outside of the bowl gets too hot, and the mixture that clings to the wall of the bowl cooks through, especially the parts smeared above the standard level of the bowl. For this, use a lower temperature water bath, not vigorously boiling, go with zetaprime's suggestion for sous vide.

I have read cooks who swear at 0.5% xanthan to get the perfect hollandaise every time. I haven't used it much, but it is worth trying.

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