February 1, 2012 |
One of the first things I learned in culinary school was how to make clarified butter. I had always thought it was just melted butter (which I now know is called “drawn butter”), but there’s a bit more to it. Clarified butter has the milk solids and water rendered out from the butterfat. You will be left with a very clear, oily, yellow liquid. The advantage of taking the milk solids out is clarified butter won’t brown on your cooking surface because it has a higher smoke point than whole butter (the temperature to which oil gets hot enough to start smoking). Have you ever made pancakes or a grilled cheese and had the butter start to turn brown, or even burn, in the pan? It’s the milk solids in the whole butter doing that. You will notice on many cooking shows and in professional kitchens, cooks use clarified butter as an oil to make dishes on the grill or in a hot pan; they get the taste of butter but not the risk of the milk solids burning on their cooking surface. So clarified butter is great for sauteing, grilling (on a griddle), making a roux and even Hollandaise.
Start with a pot or saucepan and the butter you would like to melt. It is recommended to use unsalted butter when making clarified butter as it is easier to control the level of salt in a dish when using unsalted butter. Put your butter in the pot and set it over low heat. While it is melting, just leave it alone, do not stir or disturb it. The object of the game is to let the butter melt slowly and not boil it because you want the butter to separate into 3 different levels: the bottom will be the water, the middle will be the butterfat and the top will be the milk solids. When the butter has melted completely, turn off your stove. Carefully skim the milk solids off the top, making sure to get as much as you can. Next, with a ladle or deep spoon, carefully scoop out the butterfat into the container you would like to keep it in. You will see as you get near the bottom, the water will try to get in/on the spoon, try to avoid this. You now have your clarified butter! You can store it in the fridge for up to a month (it will get hard like whole butter), or sometimes longer I’ve heard.
The milk solids and water only make up approximately 25% of the butter, so you will waste very little when making clarified butter.
Tip: When scooping out the butterfat, it is helpful to tip the pot slightly (and slowly) to get the butterfat in a more concentrated area.