Brown butter… The things my dreams are made of! So many recipes can be enhanced with brown butter. It adds a deep nutty flavor that regular butter could never bring to the party. Essentially brown butter is just cooked butter. Cooked, not burnt! Big difference!
When heating oils and fats, its important to understand the smoking points. Smoking points are the specific temperature that the oil/fat starts to break down and produce smoke. Butter has a very low smoking point (around 250-300 degrees fahrenheit). Other oils smoke at different temperatures, olive oils vary between 375 and 405 degrees and avocado oil at 520 degrees. If you reach the smoking point while making brown butter, you’ve just burned it. If your nervous about this happening, attach a candy thermometer to your saucepan to keep a closer eye on the temperature. The low smoking point of butter is why it is essential to use a medium heat while browning the butter.
Butter is made up of butterfat, milk proteins and water. When browning the butter, the oil will melt and turn clear, while the milk proteins will separate and create almost a foam on top. Clarified butter, often served with seafood dishes, calls for skimming this foam off, but in browning it’s kept in. The protein solids are actually toasting and turning brown, imparting a rich nutty flavor. Don’t strain out those lovely brown bits!
This is how the butter will look as the proteins start to brown.
- Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat.
- Continue to cook gently, and swirl the pan to evenly cook the milk proteins.
- The butter may bubble/foam a little bit. Keep an eye on the color.
- You’ll start to see the milk proteins browning. When it reaches a nice rich color, pour the butter into a container to cool.
- Periodically stir as the butter hardens to keep the brown bits from all sinking to the bottom.