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Browned butter vs. clarified butter

melting butter

Last week I talked about how to make browned butter, butter that is cooked until the milk solids in it become brown and toasty, giving the butter a warm brown color and a wonderfully rich flavor. It is not the same as clarified butter. Clarified butter is also used in a liquid state, but is made in a different way. It starts with regular unsalted butter that is melted to separate the milk solids from the butter fat. Unlike browned butter, where the milk solids are cooked and left in the butter, they are skimmed out of the clarified butter leaving a clear, yellow liquid behind.

The advantage to using clarified butter is that because it has no milk solids, it has a higher smoke point than regular butter. Where butter might burn, clarified butter can be used for some types of frying and many types of high-heat cooking. Since it’s a liquid, it’s also easy to keep on hand for greasing pans and cookware. It also has a longer shelf-life than regular butter (although with refrigeration, rancid butter is rarely something any of us encounter nowadays), too. Ghee, used frequently in Indian cooking, is a type of clarified butter.

Here are a couple recipes from other bloggers to try your hand at working with either of these two types of butter:

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  • Stephanie
    May 16, 2008

    Another great use for browned butter is making browned butter frosting. Brown the butter, then use it in a buttercream frosting recipe just the same way you would use normal butter. It makes a great flavor to top a white or yellow cake!

  • julia
    May 16, 2008

    Thank you for posting on this topic. I’ve always wondered what browned butter was exactly but was too lazy to actually research it. Now I’m just a bit smarter-er. 🙂

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