Sauce of the Gods: Hollandaise

Now that you know how to make a poached egg, the only other thing you need to know is how to make Hollandaise and you can make Eggs Benedict.  Impress Your Friends! Amaze Your Family!  Give a Brunch!  What seems intimidating is actually fairly simple if you know a few dos and don’ts along with a couple of rules.  Heat control, constant whisking and knowing when to say “when” are the most important things.

Hollandaise Sauce


  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter (clarified is best, but not essential), melted
  • 1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
  • A pinch of cayenne
  • A pinch of salt
The Simple Ingredients

The Simple Ingredients

Equipment: a double boiler OR a saucepan with a stainless steel bowl that sits on top and a whisk.  Be sure the bowl rests on the pot rim and allows for about 1 inch of water in the saucepan without the water touching the bottom of the bowl.



  1. Heat about 1” of water in the saucepan to a bare simmer.
  2. Vigorously whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice together in a stainless steel bowl and until the mixture is thickened and doubled in volume.   This should take about 50 counts of VIGOROUS whisking.

    Beat the Egg Yolks and Lemon Juice Until Thickened

    Beat the Egg Yolks and Lemon Juice Until Thickened

  3. Place the bowl over the saucepan containing about 1” of barely simmering water (or use a double boiler) ;the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl.
  4. Barely simmering” means just seeing tiny bubbles in the water-kind of like champagne.  NO bubbles on the surface.  If the water is too hot, the bowl will get too hot and the yolks will scramble or later on in the process, the sauce will separate.   You should see some steam around the edge of the bowl, but it should not be billowing out.
  5. Continue to whisk rapidly. Be careful not to let the eggs get too hot-you will need to check the water in the pot occasionally to be sure the water is not at a real boil. Keep the eggs moving at all times!!
  6. Slowly drizzle in the melted butter and continue to whisk constantly.  Add about 1 tablespoon of melted butter each time and whisk well before you drizzle in the next tablespoon.  Be sure not to let the mixture get too hot-check your water. You should see the mixture thicken and double in volume. This happens suddenly.  Remove from the heat IMMEDIATELY.  This sauce can go from perfect to disaster in 3 seconds.

    Hollandaise DONE

    Hollandaise DONE, but a bit thick.   Add a few drops of warm water to thin to “coating” (nappe)  consistency.

  7. Whisk in cayenne and salt.
  8. Cover and place in a warm spot until ready to use it. It will hold for about 30 minutes if covered and left over the warm water in the saucepan.  For longer holding, put in a warmed thermos or insulated to-go coffee mug (make sure the mug does not smell like coffee-the sauce is delicate).  The sauce will thicken upon standing-just whisk in a few drops of warm water before serving.  You can’t successfully reheat true Hollandaise.
  • Rule #1: You can NOT walk away from this sauce.  Have all your ingredients ready, including the pot holder you will need to lift the bowl up to check the water.  This whole process will only take about 10 minutes.  Let the baby scream and tell the dog to wait.
  • Rule # 2: Use butter. Period.
  • Rule #3: Don’t let the mixture get too hot at any point.  This sauce requires patience and restraint.
  • Rule # 4: Keep the mixture moving at all times.
  • Rule # 5: Don’t try to reheat hollandaise.  You will only cry.

To make traditional Eggs Benedict you will need:

  • ½ of an English Muffin, lightly toasted and buttered
  • A slice of Canadian bacon or 1-2 slices of regular bacon, cooked
  • A poached egg
  • 1-2 tablespoons Hollandaise
  • A sprinkling of finely chopped parsley or fresh tarragon
  • Optional: a few spears of steamed asparagus.

Layer: English Muffin, bacon, asparagus, egg, Hollandaise, parsley/tarragon.

Now you know.

Right: with a few drops of water added. Left: as it came pout of the bowl above.

Right: with a few drops of water added.
Left: as it came pout of the bowl above.

Tags: , , , ,

Categories: Asparagus, Breakfast, brunch, Cooking Techniques


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