Clarifying Butter

An easy-to-follow, step-by-step tutorial.

“Clarifying” is the process of removing milk solids from butterfat, giving you a clear golden fat that can be heated to a higher temperature without burning than whole butter. This, combined with the fact it can be stored without going rancid, has made clarified butter the cooking fat of choice in India and South Asia for hundreds of years.

1. To make 1 cup of clarified butter you’ll need 1¼ cup of butter. (You will lose approximately 25% of the original butter’s total volume when clarifying.)

butter

2. Place butter in a saucepan over a very low heat. Let the butter melt slowly, do not stir the butter while it is melting.

very low heat

3. As the butter melts, it will separate into three layers. The top layer is a thin layer of foam, the middle layer contains the bulk of the liquid (weighing in at about 80% of the total), and the bottom layer is where the water and most of the milk solids are. This natural separation is what makes clarifying possible.

separating

4. Skim the foam off the surface of the butter, discard the foam. Be cautious to avoid dipping the ladle into the butterfat while skimming, as the fat should remain intact.

skim fat

5. At this point, there are two possible methods for removing the butterfat from the water on the bottom of the pan. The method we chose to illustrate is to decant the fat from the water.

6. Carefully and slowly pour the fat into another container. You can see the water underneath the clear yellow butterfat. If you notice any of the water slipping into the fat, you may need to re-decant your new batch of clarified butter. If there is any water in the clarified butter, and you try adding it to a hot pan, the water will immediately boil when it hits the pan, causing the hot clarified butter to splatter out of the pan and potentially burning the cook.

An alternate method for separating the fat from the water is to use a ladle and skim the fat up and out of the pan, making sure not to let any of the water get into the ladle.

Pour your newly clarified butter to a separate container, and discard the water and small amount of remaining milk fat.

pour

7. If the clarified butter sits for a moment, you might notice more foam float to the top; use a spoon or pour your clarified butter through a fine mesh strainer and cheesecloth to remove this last bit of foam.

strain

Use clarified butter to make these recipes: