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How to Make Clarified Butter

Here's an easy step-by-step tutorial for clarifying butter.

Ghee

Photo by Spunky Buddy

What's clarified butter? It's simply regular butter with the milk solids removed.

Why clarify butter? Well, if you've ever tried to cook with butter, you know that high heat can quickly smoke and then burn your butter. Butter is mostly fat but also includes milk solids, which can smoke, scorch, brown, and burn at high temps. Separate and remove those solids, and you have a clear, golden-yellow fat with a higher smoking point than regular butter. With clarified butter (also known as "drawn butter"), you can saute or fry at a high temperature without burning the butter. And as if that weren't enough, clarified butter also stays fresh for months in the refrigerator.

How to Make Clarified Butter

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

1. Melt the Butter: Place butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a very low heat. Let the butter melt slowly, do not stir the butter while it is melting.

Butter in Saucepan

Photo by Meredith

2. Separate the Milk Solids from the Butter Fat: As the butter melts, it will separate into three layers. The top layer is a thin layer of foam, the middle layer is clear and golden and 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.

3. Skim the Foam: Skim the foam off the surface of the butter, discard the foam. Avoid dipping the ladle into the butterfat while skimming, as the fat should remain intact.

Skimming Butter Foam

Photo by Meredith 

4. Remove the Butterfat 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.

Method 1, Decant the Fat: 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.

Method 2, Ladle the Fat: 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.

As your clarified butter sits, 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.

Pouring Clarified Butter Through Cheesecloth

Photo by Meredith

Use clarified butter to make these recipes:

VIDEO: How to Clarify Butter

Now see how it's done!


Is Ghee the same thing as Clarified Butter?

The words are often used interchangeably. But ghee and clarified butter are actually not the same thing. What's the difference between ghee and clarified butter? Well, ghee takes the clarified butter concept one step further by cooking away all the moisture. In the process, the milk solids are caramelized in the concentrated fat and then strained away, leaving a nutty cooking fat with an even longer shelf life than clarified butter. It's why ghee has been the cooking fat of choice in India and South Asia for hundreds of years

Check out these recipes that call for Ghee or Clarified Butter.


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