Updated: Oct 16, 2022
Clarified butter, ghee, brown butter...it can be confusing, and seem complicated to make. But they're really not! I share important tips here where the process not only makes sense, but is easy to execute So let's get started...
First, click here for a short read tutorial on Butter 101, the information that follows will make more sense if you do!
And for the video lovers, here is the video instruction!
What is clarified butter? Clarified butter is butter that has had the water and milk solids removed. Referred to as "liquid gold", as a chef colleague said, "it turns butter into cooking oil".
Why would you use it? Butter that is clarified is now pure fat, and its smoke point (the temperature at which it begins to burn) is 486 degrees!...much higher than regular butter (350 degree smoke point) and most cooking oils. Add to that the luxurious, heady butter aroma, and you can create beautiful dishes that go beyond using it as drawn butter for seafood. Pan sauté, roast, or grill with it, and use as a pure luxury spread in place of butter. The magic of this "liquid gold" is the ability to cook something at such a high temperature, which creates a luxurious browning (without burning) and an intense heat that does beautiful things to the texture and flavor of food.
How is clarified butter different than ghee? Ghee, sometimes referred to as "Indian Butter", is clarified butter that goes a step further allowing the milk solids to begin to brown and caramelize, for a toasty aroma and flavor, before they are strained through cheesecloth.
In making clarified butter, our objective is to remove the milk solids and water content. When the butter melts, the butter separates into butterfat, water and milk solids.
Remember that regular butter is comprised of approximately 80-86% fat, 14-16% water, and the remaining small percentage are milk solids.
Making clarified butter is not difficult, yet it takes patience, as it requires low heat, and continual vigilance to ensure it doesn't burn. Taking your time will yield the best result, like the one in the recipe video, because you have given the butter the stovetop time it needs to evaporate the water, bring some milk solids to the surface, and the slow cooking time also thickens the milk solids for easier removal. Low and slow yields the best clarified butter!
CLARIFIED BUTTER RECIPE
Yield: 1.5+ cups
Prep Time: 25-20 minutes
Tools Needed: cheesecloth, sieve strainer, food safe glass container with top to store ghee
One pound high quality unsalted butter (4 sticks)
Begin by slowly melting the butter over low heat in a medium, heavy-bottomed sauce pan. Do not stir!
After several minutes, as the butter heats further, allow it to gently simmer over low heat, and once the butter begins to splutter and bubble, the water evaporation begins, and the water and some milk solids rise to the top, forming "foam". Place a bowl for the skimmed foam by the stovetop.
Begin to gently skim and remove the foam:
A note about skimming the milk solids and what to use to do it:
I have tried numerous ways to make this process simpler, using a metal spoon or small sieve. Try different methods to discover the best one for you, I prefer using a simple metal tablespoon.
Continue to remove the foam until only mostly golden butter remains at the top. The butter should be splutter now very small, clear bubbles on the surface. At this point the butter is moments to being done (the color should be a deep yellow), then remove from heat.
Allow the butter to cool for 15 minutes. Skim off any remaining milk solids that float to the top as it cools.
Carefully pour the butter through a cheesecloth lined sieve, leaving any remaining solids that had sunk to the bottom of the pan. I have attempted lining the sieve with a coffee filter instead of cheesecloth with poor results.
Cool and transfer to a food safe container with a top.
You can save the skimmed foam (full of flavor!) for other culinary uses. I pour it on my dogs' food for a special treat (they deserve it😍)
There is varying consensus on how long clarified butter will last. Since it is pure butterfat with no water or milk solids, it has a very long shelf life. Clarified butter will last in the fridge for several months, or the freezer up to 6 months. One of my chef instructors would leave the clarified butter near the stovetop, at room temperature, as he used it daily.