Making Billions of Droplets from One Tablespoon

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
It’s on account of surface tension, then, that the cook must pour energy into the liquid to be dispersed. To make a sauce, its natural monolithic arrangement must be shattered. And seriously shattered: when you beat a single tablespoon/15 ml of oil into a mayonnaise, you break it up into about 30 billion separate droplets! Serious whisking by hand or in a kitchen mixer provides enough shearing force to make droplets as small as 3 thousandths of a millimeter across. A blender can get them somewhat smaller, and a powerful industrial homogenizer can reduce them to less than one thousandth of a millimeter. The size of the droplets matters, because smaller droplets are less likely to coalesce with each other and break the sauce into two separate phases again. They also produce a thicker, finer consistency, and seem more flavorful because they have a larger surface area from which aroma molecules can escape and reach our nose.