Tips From The Kitchen: Clarified Butter

Have you ever seen a recipe that called for clarified butter and wondered why or how to do it?

Clarified butter is unsalted butter that has been slowly melted to drive off the water and separate out the milk solids and whey solids. Clarified butter, also known as ghee, is desirable in some cooking because it has a higher smoke point. Clarified butter also has a longer shelf life and can be kept in the refrigerator longer than butter that has not be clarified without going rancid. The downside of clarified butter is that the flavor is not as rich.

Follow these easy steps to clarify butter:

  • Slow melt unsalted butter in a heavy bottom saucepan over low heat.
  • As the butter heats, water begins to evaporate.
  • A foam or froth will being to float to the top. Carefully remove this from the top of the melted butter and discard (or use on pasta for flavor). These are whey solids.
  • You will notice a murky later at the bottom of the pan, these are the milk solids.
  • The middle layer will be a clear, golden-yellow liquid. This is the clarified butter.
  • After skimming the foam off the top and no more forms, carefully poor off the clarified butter.
  • To remove all of the milk solids, line a fine mesh strainer with several layers of cheese cloth. Pass the clarified butter through a strainer. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator. The clarified butter will turn solid in the refrigerator, but will melt quickly when heated.

Why use clarified butter? By clarifying butter, the smoke point is increased. By removing the whey and milk solids that contribute to butter browning when heated, you can cook at a higher temperature without the butter burning. Clarified butter is great to cook with when making omelets, fish or béarnaise and Hollandaise sauce.

As a rule of thumb, 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter = 1 cup clarified butter.

What is Ghee? Used a lot in Indian cooking, Ghee is made much the same way as clarified butter. The difference is it is left to cook longer until the milk solids at the bottom of the pan begin to brown. This gives the clarified butter more flavor.

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