Sounds a bit intimidating for those of us who aren’t professional chefs, but using clarified butter in the kitchen is more common than one might think.
So what exactly is this magical stuff? It’s melted butterfat with the milk solids removed. Because of this the flavor is cleaner, richer and more concentrated.
It’s not only a must-have as a condiment for dipping seafood into (such as lobster, crab legs, shrimp, etc.) or drizzling over steaks hot off the grill (yum!), but it’s also very sought after and beneficial in cooking.
Once clarified it has a higher smoke point, this means it can handle a higher heat than before. If you’ve ever tried sauteing vegetables or shallow frying chicken pieces in regular butter, you know how quickly it can turn dark and the flavor definitely tweaked with burnt and bitter notes.
This will fix that problem and you’ll still be able to enjoy that rich, buttery flavor…but without the danger of an acrid aftertaste.
It’s very similar to (and often confused with) ghee, which is a staple in Indian cuisine but there are slight differences (for example, ghee is cooked longer to remove all the water and till the milk solids are toasty brown so it has a nuttier flavor).
Becoming more mainstream as home cooks discover the benefits of using this golden elixir to saute and fry foods, these step-by-step instructions will help you learn how to make it yourself–no special equipment or ingredients required!
How To Make Clarified Butter
Make batches ahead of time and store in the refrigerator to be used as needed…note that it will solidify as it cools. Simply reheat the amount required & it will return to liquid form.
- Using a heavy pan, carefully heat unsalted butter on low (salted will work too if that’s all you have on hand).
- Once completely melted let it low-simmer gently for about 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat then skim the surface with a spoon to remove the foam that has formed on top and discard.
- Let sit for a few minutes (5 to 10), this allows it to cool a bit and give the milk solids time to settle on the bottom of the pan.
- Next slowly pour the clear golden liquid into a glass jar or dish, making sure to leave the bottom milky layer behind. Discard this layer.
- Tip: Strain through a cheesecloth to separate. A coffee filter will do the trick too.
- The golden liquid freshly poured is clarified, this is what is used for cooking or dipping with as desired.
Rule of Thumb: One stick will lose approximately 1 tablespoon of volume once processed.
- Melt as directed above, strain surface then transfer all the liquid into a container. Allow contents to come to room temperature then refrigerate. The next day carefully pop the solidified block out from container, scrape off ends if needed. Remaining behind in the container will be any leftover solids and water, this can be tossed. Store butter in a fresh container to refrigerate.
- You could also transfer the melted liquid into a gravy or fat separator then carefully pour out the golden goodness, leaving the solids behind.
- You could also try melting it in a cup and then use a large spoon to hold solids inside the vessel while you pour.
Because microwaves vary so much in their heating power, I don’t prefer this method at all for clarifying butter. It’s far too easy to overheat the product but you can have better luck by reducing the power level to about 70% if you still want to give it a go.
- Heat gently in the microwave, let sit for a couple minutes and then strain as directed in the steps above.
Is it shelf stable at room temperature? Only if you’re sure all the water content has been removed is it safe to leave out on the counter. Otherwise, refrigeration is necessary to prevent bacteria growth.
- Store in an airtight container and refrigerate, this will keep nicely for several weeks (or even months). A small glass mason jar is an ideal storage vessel.
- If you notice an off smell or mold on the surface, it’s time to toss. This typically happens when contents are contaminated with a dirty spoon or knife.
- For a longer shelf life, pack into cubes or small plastic containers to freeze for extended periods of time (up to one year), for best results thaw before heating.
- Because the milk solids have been removed, many who are lactose intolerant find they can enjoy this treat with no problems.
- Experiment with cooking times to see what you like best, browning the milk solids a bit will add a nutty flavor (the darker, the more nuttier it gets). Careful not to burn the batch! The longer the heating time, the closer you edge to ghee.
- Homemade hollandaise sauce will definitely benefit from this, but choose a high quality butter to clarify, the results are excellent! The recipe I use? It’s a goody and can be found here: Easy & No-Fail Hollandaise Sauce (From Downshiftology).
- I almost hesitate to mention this…because this is so addictive…but it’s also AMAZING on freshly popped popcorn. You’re welcome!
Don’t discard the foam and the settlings. Just keep them in the fridge and use them then next time you feel like adding a butter flavor to a dish. Even yummier if they have browned a little.
The milk solids are great for topping on popcorn!
personally i prefer the clairfied butter on the popcorn.. the solids makes the popcorn soggy..(i use a hot air popper to cut down on fats) the light golden liquid they refer to is pure flavor and well.. in my mind less fattening.
This is even easier with a small one-quart slow cooker. You don’t have to watch the pot to keep it from burning. Just cut the butter into chunks, place in the slow cooker, and set it on High. Once it’s melted, just follow the instructions above to skim, let settle, and pour off. Also, I recommend making clarified butter from unsalted butter, so that the saltiness doesn’t get concentrated in the final product.
Clarified butter is extensively used in Indian cooking and is readily available at Indian grocery stores. It is called – GHEE.