India's been an online writer for over eight years. She often writes about world cuisine and cooking.
How to Clarify Butter
We anxiously wait for our restaurant server to bring a yummy plate to the table so we can dawn plastic bibs and put into action those shell-cracking "tools" of the shellfish trade! The unique quality of clarified butter brings a rich, sweet flavor and silky texture that dances on our pallets as we enjoy crab legs, lobster and a myriad of other butter-dipped foods. At home it is a rare thing to find such a delightful ingredient on the family dinner table, it simply seems so far out of reach for the average home cook. ... Or is it?
You don't need any fancy tools or techniques for the job, just a little patience and the willingness to enjoy great cooking ingredients!
- Heavy bottom, wide top pan (sounds like that woman in the mirror I see these days)
- Cup or small bowl
- Butter (unsalted if you have it, otherwise salted butter is fine)
- Place the pan over low to medium-low heat to warm it up. You DO NOT want to let the pan get overly hot or the butter can scorch, and that's not good.
- Place room temperature butter (straight out of the fridge is okay, it will just take longer to melt and does require more supervision to prevent scorching) into the pan and allow it to melt slowly, keep moving it to prevent burning or scorching.
- You will begin to see a foamy substance rise to the top, this is the stuff you will be skimming off with the ladle.
- Keep moving the butter around so it melts without burning. If you see bubbles, (boiling) reduce heat or pull from burner for a few seconds.
- Once butter is fully melted, use the ladle to skim the solid foamy stuff off and discard it in a cup off to the side. A second foaming will take place, and you will skim these solids away as well. Continue skimming until the butter is clear and golden.
- If you want to filter the skimmed butter, run the warm golden liquid through a cheesecloth or coffee filter. This offers a very clean, milk-solid-free, finished clarified butter.
What Makes Clarified Butter So Special?
There are several things that make clarified butter really great, but for those who may not be tolerant of lactose, clarified butter is a magic substance! Below you will find just a few of the wonderful attributes found in drawn butter.
- Clarified butter has a MUCH longer shelf-life than fresh butter.
- Drawn butter (clarified butter) offers cooks a more stable and higher "smoke point" which allows for sauteing without that burnt brown butter taste. Whole butter smokes at about 250°F to 350°F, clarified butter smokes at a more stable temperature depending on how pure it is. Whole butter can be all over the temperature chart, bouncing between the high and low smoke parameters. In a cottage-style preparation (which is what we have done in this article) the smoke point will vary with the purity. Milk solids are unstable and are the cause of the variation. The more clean and clear your butter, the more stable the smoke point will become.
- The French make a version called beurre noisette (meaning hazelnut butter, but free of real hazelnuts altogether), where the butter is cooked long enough and hot enough so the water is cooked out, which then caramelizes the solids to create a nutty flavor (these solids are then skimmed off). This product is known as brown butter. This is completely different than the recipe above.
- For the lactose intolerant folks, clarified butter has such a low lactose content, that it is acceptable for most who suffer after consuming the substance. Remember, the clearer the butter ends up (milk-solid-free) the easier it is going to be on those who are lactose intolerant.
- It is known as samna in the Middle East
- It is known as ghee in South Asia