How to Make Clarified Butter
Learn how to make clarified butter, an easy process that removes the water and milk solids from whole butter. Use it for Hollandaise and many other recipes.
I had one goal the first time I made clarified butter: To make Hollandaise Sauce.
But, there are actually a lot useful reasons to clarify butter. By removing the milk solids and water from whole butter, you’re left with 100% pure butterfat.
This means a higher smoke point, a longer shelf life, and a more versatile substance great for making everything from stir-fries to sauces.
Start by melting unsalted butter over low heat. Very low heat.
If your butter boils, the milk solids get dispersed throughout the fat and you won’t be able to skim them off.
Next, skim off the foamy milk solids that rose to the top.
Last, ladle the butterfat from the saucepan in to a second (clean) saucepan or another vessel for holding. Be sure to leave the water in the bottom of the original saucepan (it will look like a white, milky substance).
What you’re left with is pure butterfat. It doesn’t have the same rich, buttery flavor as whole butter, but it doesn’t turn rancid in the refrigerator, either. (At least not for several months).
Use a Better Butter
I have clarified several types of butter at home, and the best by far is the European-style, imported butter. These butters usually contain more milk fat than American butter (82% to 86% milk fat in European vs. 80% to 82% in American).
After clarifying some store-brand or other inexpensive butters, I was left with what looked like a pan of yellow water. Not appetizing!
So, just keep your goals in mind. If you are clarifying butter to make a delicious Hollandaise Sauce, choose a delicious butter (since Hollandaise Sauce is mostly butter). But If you’re clarifying butter to make a stir-fry, the quality won’t be quite as important.
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How to Make Clarified Butter
- In a small saucepan over low heat, warm butter without boiling or agitation of any kind.
- As the butter melts, the solids rise to the top and water sinks to the bottom. Sometimes the solids appear to bubble up from the bottom.
When the butter is melted, skim the milk solids from the top using a ladle or slotted spoon (see notes for ideas of what to do with the solids).
- When the skim solids have been removed, transfer the butterfat to a clean saucepan or bowl using a ladle. Leave the water in the bottom of the original saucepan.
- 1 pound of whole butter will yield approximately 12 ounces clarified butter. The clarified butter can be kept in the refrigerator or freezer.
- Adapted from "Procedure for Clarifying Butter" in On Cooking.
- To put your butter solids to use, lightly brown them in a small amount of clarified butter to make "browned butter." Then, add to cookies, vegetables, soups, mashed potatoes for extra butter flavor, or use as a condiment on bread.
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