When butter is moderately heated and liquifies, water evaporates and milk solids sink to the bottom. The clear yellow liquid on top is called Clarified Butter. Simply put, it is the butter without the milk solids and water, hence mostly fat. It also tastes and smells really good. One notable characteristic is that Clarified Butter has a higher smoke point (burns at approximately 400ºF) than plain butter and doesn’t turn brown since it is the milk particles in ordinary butter which blacken first. Many recipes call for Clarified Butter, like when you pan fry cutlets of beef, poultry or fish and in Indian cooking where it is called cow ghee. Mostly used whenever a recipe calls for you to be cooking with butter at high temperatures.
Its nice to have Clarified Butter ready in the fridge for cooking scrambled eggs, omelets, sauté chicken, beef or fish and it is also used in pastry making. If you are making Clarified Butter for an specific recipe, keep in mind you will loose approximately 25% of the amount you started with in the clarification process. Also, use good quality unsalted butter and be very attentive to the process so that you don’t burn the milk solids, which is another recipe- beurre noisette or brown sugar, delicious too but different. Clarified butter keeps longer than normal butter in the fridge and has low levels of lactose. I always have some in my fridge! Give it a try to see the difference when you cook or sear with clarified butter!
To clarify butter, place unsalted butter in a heavy saucepan and melt over gentle heat. When the butter has melted, skim off the foam on top with a spoon. This might take about 8 minutes. Be very attentive with the heat! You don’t want the milk solids to turn brown. Strain the clear yellow liquid into a bowl. Sometimes, I use a cheesecloth with the strainer if there is still some foam on top.
Leave behind the milk solids found in the bottom of the pan. You may use them later to enrich soups or sauces. Use Clarified Butter immediately or save in a covered container in the refrigerator for later use. Clarified Butter lasts a long time in the fridge.