Butter, in its most basic form, is made up of three ingredients: fat, water and proteins. Based on the quality and brand, butter is typically between 75-80 percent fat. When adding proteins into the mix, butter has a tendency to burn at around 250 degrees and will create smoke faster than oils. Due to the burn factor, regular butter is great for baking but not so great when it comes to cooking, especially at high temperatures. That's when clarified butter comes into play.
Clarified butter, or "drawn butter," simply means to remove the water and milk solids from unsalted butter which, in turn, leaves pure butterfat that is a beautiful golden-yellow color. Some recipes call for clarified butter because this type of butter can be used at higher temperatures than normal butter since it's simply butter fat.
Follow the steps below for an easy way to make clarified butter:
- Melt unsalted butter over low heat until the butter breaks down and layers begin to form. The top layer should be a white foam. This layer should be skimmed off the top with a spoon. The milk solids will begin to drop to the bottom of the pan and form a milk layer. This leaves the pure golden-yellow butterfat as the middle layer.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat. Another option is to leave the saucepan on the heat and cook the melted butter until the milk solids begin to brown. Remove the saucepan from the heat when this change occurs. This technique will result in the clarified butter turning into "brown butter" or "hazelnut butter" because it takes on more of a nutty flavor
- Allow the butter to sit for a few minutes to allow the milk layer to settle at the bottom.
- Strain the mixture using a fine sieve or a cheesecloth-lined strainer over a bowl. The butter that ends up in the bowl is clarified butter.
- Use the clarified butter immediately or pour into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to several months..