Making Hollandaise and Béarnaise

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
There are at least five different ways of making hollandaise and béarnaise, each with its advantages and disadvantages.

  • Cook the egg and water-based ingredients first to a thick consistency, then whisk in pats of whole butter to emulsify the butterfat and thin the continuous phase. This is Carême’s method, and is the trickiest because the small volume of the initial egg mixture is easily overcooked.
  • Warm the yolks and water-based ingredients, whisk in either whole or clarified butter, then cook the mixture until it reaches the desired consistency. This is Escoffier’s method, and has the advantage that the cook can control the final consistency directly, and by heating the entire volume of sauce.
  • Put all of the ingredients for the sauce in a cold saucepan, turn the heat on low, and start stirring. The butter gradually melts and releases itself into the egg phase as both heat up together, and the cook then continues to heat the formed sauce until it reaches the desired consistency. This is the simplest method.
  • Don’t cook the yolks at all; just warm them and the water-based ingredients above the melting point of butter, then whisk clarified butter in until the crowding of droplets creates the desired consistency. This is essentially a butter mayonnaise, and eliminates the possibility of overcooking the yolks.
  • Make the butter-sauce version of a sabayon. Whisk the egg yolks and some water while heating them until they form an airy foam, and then gently incorporate melted or clarified butter and the lemon juice or acid reduction. This version is of course much lighter, and is also made with less butter per yolk.