How to Make Brown Butter in 3 Easy Steps

This easy-to-learn French cooking technique adds a complex and nutty flavor to all kinds of sweet and savory recipes. Here’s what it is and how to do it. #awesomesauce

How to Make Brown Butter | Brown Butter

Photo by Meredith

Brown butter, also known as beurre noisette, is made by cooking unsalted butter long enough to turn the milk solids brown while cooking out any water present in the butter. Often described as tasting nutty or toasty, it has a deeper, richer, more intense flavor than melted or clarified butter. Brown butter is traditionally served with fish, but it makes a delicious topping for vegetables such as Brussels sprouts and broccoli. Desserts get a flavor boost from brown butter, too, whether it’s baked into cookies and cakes, or whipped into frostings.

How to Make Brown Butter

 

How to Make Brown Butter | Melting Butter for Brown Butter

Melting butter over medium heat.

1. Cut unsalted butter into small, evenly-sized pieces and place it in a pot or pan. Cutting the butter into pieces helps it melt and cook evenly. Always use a light-colored pot or pan so you can see how dark the butter gets as it cooks.

How to Make Brown Butter | Melted Butter

The butter has melted and the milk solids have separated from the liquid fat.

2. Turn on the heat to medium and let the butter melt. Tip: The temperature you use can vary from high to medium; either way, the butter will go from melted to brown in mere minutes. High heat will brown the butter very quickly, but if you don’t keep a close eye on it, the milk solids could sink to the bottom of the pan and burn before you know it. Until you get really good at this, it’s safer to use moderate heat to slow things down just a bit so you can keep a careful eye on the process.

How to Make Brown Butter | Stirring the butter as it browns.

Stirring the butter as it browns.

3. Stir or swirl the pan constantly, until the butter becomes a light tan color as the milk solids toast in the hot fat. At this point, you can take the pan off the burner because the butter will continue cooking even after you remove it from the heat. Notice the dramatic change in color—it should be nut-brown and have a toasty aroma. Pour the brown butter into a separate bowl to keep it from cooking further. If the butter gets overcooked, the milk solids will scorch and turn black, and the butter will have a very bitter taste.

Using Brown Butter

You can use brown butter in its liquid state, or cool it into a solid and substitute it in recipes for regular butter. Note: The brown butter will reduce in volume as the water content cooks off. One cup (2 sticks or ½ pound butter) will yield ¾ cup brown butter.

  • Lightly browned butter is excellent with vegetables.
  • Medium browned butter is what you want for pasta and fish dishes, and in baked goods and frostings.
  • Dark (but not blackened) butter has a more bitter taste, yet it’s still used in some traditional French dishes; in this very dark state, it’s called black butter, or beurre noir.

Often, when brown butter is made into a savory sauce, you’ll add ingredients such as herbs and/or garlic to further enhance the flavor.

Watch as Chef John demos this super easy recipe for Tarragon Walnut Brown Butter Sauce.

 

More Savory Recipes with Brown Butter

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage-Brown Butter Sauce

How to Make Brown Butter | Butternut Squash Ravioli wht Sage-Brown Butter Sauce

Butternut Squash Ravioli wht Sage-Brown Butter Sauce | Photo by AERO

Butternut Mascarpone Gnocchi
Browned Butter and Mizithra Cheese Pasta with Chicken, Spinach and Herbs
Browned Butter Vegetables with Almonds
Brussels Sprouts With Browned Butter
Lemon Caper Butter Sauce

Now, see how to use brown butter in sweet dessert recipes.


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