Potato salad, chicken salad, pasta salad and deviled eggs all get their creaminess from mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is made from oil, eggs, vinegar, mustard and seasonings, which have been emulsified to form a thick spread. Foods that contain mayonnaise don’t need any special treatment beyond basic safe food storage. Store and serve them from an aluminum container if you like, but cover and refrigerate them quickly.
The main reason you might question serving mayo-laced food in an aluminum container is that the acid in the mayonnaise might theoretically react with the aluminum, creating a metallic taste or off-color. Breathe easy. It takes a while for this reaction to happen and you’re unlikely to experience any problems simply by serving foods with mayonnaise from an aluminum container. Problems are more likely to occur when you’re simmering an acidic food for a long time in reactive cookware, such as when you’re simmering a tomato sauce for hours at a time.
The benefits of using an aluminum container far outweigh any potential drawbacks. Heavy-duty, disposable aluminum pans are a caterer’s dream and they work well in the home kitchen too. You can load a lot of food in these pans, cover them with foil and you’re ready to go. If the food is to be heated, these pans fit nicely in steam tables. Although they’re disposable, they can be recycled or washed and used repeatedly. Durable aluminum bowls are another option. These bowls are widely available, economically priced and come in a variety of sizes.
Another reason you might avoid aluminum is because you’ve heard it’s unsafe for cooking. Rumors emerged several years ago, linking aluminum cookware with Alzheimer’s disease. Since the 1970s, numerous studies have found no correlation between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. However, if the thought of using aluminum containers still makes you uncomfortable, you should certainly choose a different product.
One final myth about foods with mayonnaise is that mayo-laced foods spoil quickly and present a food safety issue. Homemade mayonnaise contains raw eggs and might not contain enough vinegar to safely hold foods for long. Commercial mayonnaise, on the other hand, doesn’t contain raw eggs and is so acidic that it actually helps prevent bacterial growth. Which is not to say you can leave foods with mayonnaise out for hours on end without trouble. Follow basic food safety rules, though, and you’ll have no problems. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold, and refrigerate any leftovers within two hours of serving. Foods served at a picnic spoil more quickly because of hot weather and frequent handling. Throw them out after one hour.
References and ResourcesNorth Carolina State University Extension: Picnic Safety
Epicurious: Mayonnaise Safety Myth
The Kitchn: What's the Deal With Reactive (and Non-Reactive) Cookware?
Alzheimer's Association: Alzheimer's Myths