I’ve been using this restaurant hack to make creamy salad dressings for years
Growing up in the 1980s, it seemed like there were only four types of store-bought dressings: Italian, French, Russian, and Thousand Island. Even honey mustard or Caesar salad dressings were over the top for my parents, and the tidal wave of creamy, steady ranch dressings was just beginning to hit supermarket shelves in our corner of New Jersey. My dad mixed dried packets of the stuff in hot sauce and melted butter to make his buffalo sauce for the wings. The blue cheese dressing was strictly a hot wing condiment that only came out on the snack trays during football Sundays. The Italian dressing – with its multicolored flecks of flavor floating in the cloudy part of the dressing that had separated from the oil – was my favorite. The only way to recombine it and make it almost creamy was to shake the bottle really hard, which wasn’t a very effective technique. But it turns out I was onto something.
Related: The best immersion blenders, according to our test kitchen
Years later, during my first job in a restaurant, I learned of the existence of the hand blender, and I have never parted with it since. At the salad station where I worked, we called it “the stick” or “the Dyno”, a play on the brand name of the industrial immersion blender that was about the size of a five-year-old year. We’ve dunked it into big vats of salad dressings, turning almost any type into a thick, satiny, creamy emulsion without having to use dairy or mayonnaise, or whisk until our arms drop. I still use this hack to this day. It’s so easy, why not me! Plus, if you like creamy textures like most of us, this is a great technique when you avoid dairy, have lactose intolerance, or just don’t like adding amounts of mayonnaise to a salad dressing. .
An immersion blender is like a turbocharged version of shaking a salad dressing bottle. Both techniques attempt to accomplish the same thing: emulsification. But using a powerful immersion blender is a much more efficient way to achieve that smooth, even consistency. Even a simple mix of balsamic vinegar, oil, garlic, salt and pepper is no challenge for the Dyno, turning a defiantly separated dressing into a luscious dressing in seconds to minutes, depending on the batch size.
Once your dressing is emulsified, it will stay that way for at least as long as you have it on the dinner table. If it separates, it’s easy to put the mixer back in place and recombine the mixture. To make your dressing more stable, you can add an emulsifier like Dijon mustard or honey to help support the creamy texture. And if you happen to have an immersion blender with a removable base, cleanup is a snap.
I recommend mixing in a somewhat narrow container and of a certain height; the volume of dressing must come above the blade otherwise the mixture may be difficult to emulsify. And you don’t need a kindergarten-sized immersion blender to make your salad dressings creamy. Any size will work, and smaller sizes may work best for home cooking. Try this technique the next time you’re making a salad. It will likely become a permanent part of your tool kit.
Related: How to Make Perfect Homemade Salad Dressing Every Time