What Is Clarified Butter?
Once you start cooking steak in clarified butter you’ll never go back.
By Fraya Berg for Food Network Kitchen
Fraya is a chef and a contributing writer at Food Network.
Chances are, you’ve eaten clarified butter numerous times and not known it. And that's because chefs use it in place of oil all the time. Clarified butter can be heated to 450 degrees F without burning, meaning it's great for getting a sear on anything you're going to then make a buttery pan sauce for (steak, we're looking at you). Read on for more info on what clarified butter is, how to make it and use it.
What Is Clarified Butter?
Clarified butter, sometimes lovingly referred to as liquid gold, is just butter with the milk solids and water removed. To clarify is to make clear, and that’s exactly clarified butter is: clear butter. Clarified butter is very popular in French cooking, and its cousin, Ghee, is an Indian staple.
When butter is just barely melted, it is yellow and fairly opaque, and that is called drawn butter. The opacity comes from everything in the butter that isn’t pure butter fat. Butter is at least 80% fat, so that leaves up to 20% the “other parts”. The other parts are water and the milk solids: proteins and sugars. They’re the parts that turn brown when you’re making brown butter. When butter is clarified, first it melts, then it separates into the water portion and the fat portion. As it heats up, the water turns to vapor and boils off, the proteins and sugars collapse and sink to the bottom of the pot and what’s left on top is the pure clarified butter.
What Is the Purpose of Clarified Butter?
The purpose of clarifying butter is to raise its smoke point. The smoke point of regular butter is 350 degrees F. The smoke point of clarified butter is 450 degrees F, allowing you to use it - instead of canola oil, which has a smoke point of 400 to 450 degrees F - to get a good, flavorful sear.
Clarified butter is also sometimes called for in fussy sauces that can break easily, like hollandaise, because it makes them more stable.
How to Make Clarified Butter
To make clarified butter, you need three things: at least a pound of unsalted butter, a pot and a source of heat. A fine mesh strainer is nice to have but not essential.
1. Choose a Large Pot
Choose a pot that is four times the volume of your butter, so one pound of butter needs a 2-quart sauce pot.
2. Cook the Butter Over Low Heat
Heat the pot over low heat and add the butter. Cook it over low heat until it melts and the butter foams up and stays at the top in a white layer.
3. Strain the Clarified Butter
At this point, you can skim to foam off with a shallow spoon and discard. Below it you will find transparent, golden-yellow clarified butter. And below that, a third layer of sediment. You can now carefully spoon off the clarified butter into an airtight container, or pour it through a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer to remove the sediment.
4. Store the Clarified Butter
Clarified butter lasts in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one year (far longer than regular butter!) or at room temperature for up to two months.
How to Clarify Butter Without Cheesecloth
Many recipes will call for you to strain the clarified butter through cheesecloth, which captures every last bit of sediment. If you don't have cheesecloth, you can also use a very fine mesh strainer. In fact, we're proponents of the fine mesh strainer because it's a no-waste method: cheesecloth tends to soak up extra liquid so you'll lose some clarified butter.
How to Clarify Butter in the Microwave
Cut one stick of butter into 8 pieces and place in a Pyrex measuring cup. Heat in the microwave on medium power until it melts and separates. Watch it carefully or it will burn. When you make clarified butter in the microwave, you will have to skim the foam off the top.
Is Clarified Butter the Same As Ghee?
Ghee is a variety of clarified butter that's popular in Indian cooking. When making ghee, you procede through the steps to make clarified butter, but let the milk solids brown, being careful not to let them burn. They impart a toasted nut flavor to the butter fat. If you want to dig deeper into ghee we've got an article a that answers all your questions about ghee.
Recipes with Clarified Butter
Using clarified butter instead of a neutral oil will give this chicken soooooo much more flavor.
Hash browns can become crispy in clarified butter just as easily as oil. And who doesn’t want hash browns to taste like butter?
Be sure to get a good sear on the salmon before you turn it for the most flavor.
Chard is as flavorful as it is colorful. Look for rainbow chard, it will cook up like all the other chards.