How to Save a Broken Sauce
It's zero fun when a sauce breaks. Here are two options to fix a broken sauce just in time.
Photo: Shutterstock / Rimma Bondarenko
If you’ve tried your hand at making egg-based sauces at home like this dreamy hollandaise or homemade mayonnaise, you’re probably well acquainted with what happens when it breaks. Broken sauce heartbreak, anyone? Though enlisting help from an immersion blender (learn how) can help from the start, it can feel like all hope is lost once you start to see your sauce separate. Don’t give up! Luckily, there’s a few ways to fix a broken sauce.
Why Does My Sauce Break?
First off, broken sauces are typically caused by one (or more) common issues: Adding fatty ingredients too quickly or letting the sauce get too hot and curdle. Follow the recipe to the T and you’re sauce will be in good shape. Looking to test in your skill? Try this recipe for Sirloin with Bearnaise Sauce. Home cook Lauri Irelan says, “I actually think this sauce is better than the one at my favorite steakhouse. Definitely a keeper!”
How to Fix a Broken Sauce
Solution 1: Early Rescue
If you are just noticing that your delicious sauce is starting to separate, there’s still time to easily salvage it for your perfect dish if you act quickly! Use this trick if you’re keeping a close eye on the sauce and notice that it’s starting to break up at the edges and form into globs.
Step 1: Turn to whatever base you are using: Common liquids include vinegar, wine, and even water. Splash a dash into your saucepan (no more than a teaspoon).
Step 2: Grab your spoon or whisk and give your sauce a hard stir. You want that new base to mix in as much as possible.
Step 3: Keep stirring and watch carefully. The added base liquid should help cool down the hotter parts of the sauce and give more elements for the fats to form around, eventually smoothing down the sauce. You can try a dash more of base if it doesn’t seem to be working, but don’t try too much or you could make the problem worse.
Solution 2: The Egg Yolk Trick
This solution works for a sauce that has already fully broken (although it’s more effective if the sauce is still warm). A totally broken sauce will be a mix of whey-like liquid and grains of floating fats, with very little emulsion.
Step 1: Choose a bowl that you don’t mind serving the sauce in or ladling it from. Pour in a small amount of the base you are using—around a tablespoon or two depending on how much sauce you’re making.
Step 3: Whisk the egg mixture energetically and slowly pour the sauce into the bowl at the same time. We mean slowly: You need to give the sauce time to form a new, emulsified substrate and mix throughout your old sauce. Go a spoonful at a time, and watch carefully to make sure the sauce in the bowl is smoothing out and reforming properly. You will want to serve the sauce ASAP after finishing this step.
We hope your sauces never break, but if they do, you are now armed with the knowledge of how to fix it. Good luck!