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Tasting Panel: Mayonnaise

by Laura Giannatempo

fromFine Cooking
Issue 80

Many of us take mayonnaise for granted. Typically, the big jar sits on a shelf in the refrigerator door, ready when we need to fix a sandwich or whip up potato salad. But have we ever paused to consider which brand is the tastiest? Or do we just buy what’s comforting and familiar, what our mothers—and their mothers—always bought?

To find out which jarred mayonnaise merits a place in the fridge, eleven Fine Cooking staffers took part in a blind tasting of six widely available brands. To our surprise, Hellman’s—everyone’s childhood favorite—was surpassed by Kraft Real Mayonnaise. But both brands reveal our panelists’ clear preferences when it comes to mayo in a jar: clean, mild flavors with a good balance of tartness and salt—and the egg well in the background.

Mayonnaises are numbered in order of preference; prices will vary.

Top pick

1. Kraft Real Mayonnaise
$2.99 (32 fluid oz.)

This mayo’s winning cards were a light, mildly tangy flavor, a perfect balance of vinegar and salt with just a touch of egg, and a smooth, creamy texture. Many recognized it as similar to what they usually eat and declared it the perfect blank canvas a jarred mayonnaise should be.

Runners-up

2. Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise
$4.59 (30 fluid oz.)

The runner-up shared many qualities with the winning mayonnaise. It had a mild, clean flavor, a nice tart-salt balance with only slightly stronger hints of mustard, and a pleasant custardy texture. Most tasters recognized this as a familiar flavor as well. But some found that it lacked depth and was a bit “monotone.”

3. Cains All Natural Mayonnaise
$3.99 (32 fluid oz.)

This mayo’s texture wasn’t a selling point: Too thick and dense, it had an objectionable oily mouth-feel. The flavor was assertive and pleasantly tart—one taster said it was the closest of the bunch to homemade mayonnaise—but it was a little too sweet and eggy to score higher.

4. Spectrum Organic Mayonnaise
$5.99 (32 fluid oz.)

The battle between Spectrum and Cains was a close one. They elicited similar opinions from panelists, who said Spectrum’s texture, too, was unpleasantly thick and gummy. Its excessive tartness and cloying sweetness kept scores down as well. Several panelists detected a tin-like aftertaste.

5. Whole Foods 365 Mayonnaise
$2.49 (32 fluid oz.)

“Too runny” is what most panelists said when asked to describe the texture of this mayonnaise. And it was also too tart. The vinegar flavor of this mayo was overwhelming, so much so that it tasted “closer to a creamy vinaigrette than to mayonnaise.”

6. Gefen Mayonnaise
$5.49 (32 fluid oz.)

This kosher mayonnaise is made with cottonseed oil (instead of the more common soybean oil), which may account for its “funny flavor” that threw off most panelists. Unusual flavors aside, it was bland and forgettable, with a decidedly unpopular greasy mouth-feel.

Make your own

Let’s face it: Regular old jarred mayo may be fine when spread on a piece of bread to add moisture and a little oomph to a sandwich. But if you’re making tartar sauce or rémoulade, you’re in the market for something with a richer, more complex flavor. That’s where homemade mayonnaise comes in. And you don’t have to beat a whisk until your arm aches: Whipping up homemade mayo takes just a few minutes with a hand mixer.

Homemade flavor in a tub

Don’t have time to make your own mayo? You can get the best of both worlds: A mayonnaise that has that homemade feel and flavor with the convenience of a jar. Delouis Fils Fresh Mayonnaise comes in 12-oz. plastic tubs packed to the brim with a velvety smooth, satisfyingly rich mayonnaise that has a sprightly mustard kick and a mildly assertive yet never overpowering egg flavor. Made with nothing other than safflower oil, egg yolks, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard, it’s as close as it gets to homemade.

Delouis Fils is available in specialty stores around the country and at most Whole Foods markets ($5.99 for a 12-oz. tub). Unopened, it lasts for about three months; once opened, it should be consumed within a month.

Photos: Scott Pillips

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