Here’s how to make brown butter for any sweet or savory applications. The Maillard Browning cooking technique adds a rich toasted nutty toffee aroma and flavors.
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Butter on its own is an excellent ingredient for cooking and baking. However, did you know that a simple technique to melt and toast the butter solids transforms the flavor in just minutes? Making brown butter, or beurre noisette is a method every home cook should have in their repertoire. It adds a lot of toasty, nutty aroma and hazelnut-like flavor to any sweet or savory dish.
If you haven’t taken the opportunity to turn this beautiful ingredient into liquid gold, now is the chance! This step-by-step guide will ensure success. Careful attention ensures that the butter won’t go from browned to burnt. Make a brown butter sauce to add to pasta, vegetables, seafood, or meat. Use it to elevate the caramel flavor of chocolate cookies, frostings, and quick bread. The options are endless!
What is brown butter?
It all begins with a beautiful hunk of unsalted butter. When heated, the milk solids naturally found in sticks of butter, the proteins casein and whey, and lactose transform in taste. Once melted, the milk solids cook and toast, developing deeper flavors due to the Maillard reaction.
Pleasant nutty hazelnut aromas and flavors emerge as it cooks. Use brown butter in recipes for any sauce, pastry, or culinary application. It takes less than 10-minutes to prepare!
STEP 1: Melt the butter
Use a lightly colored saucepan to make brown butter like an All-Clad stainless steel pan. This way, you can see the color of the butter change from yellow to lightly browned, then golden. The butter can be used cold or at room temperature. You can slice them into smaller pieces for faster melting. Apply medium-high heat to start the melting process quickly.
STEP 2: Allow solids to separate
Once the butter melts, reduce to medium heat, so it doesn’t burn. See the white foam on top of the melted butter? That’s the milk solids. When butter melts, it separates into milk solids, butterfat (which can be collected for clarified butter), and water.
The temperatures rise as you heat the melted butter over the heat source, and the milk solids change to a golden brown color. Continuously stir or swirl the butter during this process to get consistent cooking. Keep a close eye on the color change. You don’t want burnt bits on the bottom of the pan.
STEP 3: Brown the butter solids
See those golden-browned solids on the bottom of the pan? Quickly transfer the brown butter to a heatproof bowl to stop the cooking process. Make sure you scrape those bits into the bowl to get all of that great nutty flavor.
This process can take between 3 to 10 minutes, depending on how much butter you’re using (a few tablespoons to 1 cup). In the picture above, 10 tablespoons of butter took 3 to 4 minutes for the process to finish.
If not using the browned butter immediately, you can cool it down, then transfer it to an airtight container. I like to store it in a glass jar, and then grab some when a recipe calls for it. It will last for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator. You can also freeze the brown butter for up to 3 months.
Way to use brown butter
Now you can use this magical brown butter in any dish you like. I love to add sliced fresh sage leaves and nutmeg to use as a sauce for pasta or fish. In baking, it adds rich toffee and caramel flavors to cookies.
- Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies
- Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
- M&M cookies
- Delicata squash ravioli
- Green beans almondine
Frequently asked questions
Brown butter is regular butter melted down on the stovetop and heated until the milk solids turn golden brown. This process toasts the flavorful solids, creating a nutty, butterscotch-like flavor. Heating causes some of the water to evaporate.
Brown butter is the first step to making ghee without removing milk solids. It’s used as a butter sauce or flavor-boosted ingredient for baked goods. Ghee is a type of clarified butter that removes the foamy milk solids and evaporates the water in the butter. After straining, what’s left is golden brown milkfat with a caramel flavor used for cooking or baking.
If not using the browned butter right away, refrigerate it. This will prolong the shelf life of the butter for about 2 weeks or 3 months in the freezer.
Don’t burn the browned butter!
Butter can turn from perfectly browned to charred if the heat is not monitored. The butter is heated above 266°F (130ºC) so the lactose and proteins brown. To prevent burning, ensure the temperature stays below the butter smoke point of 350°F (177ºC). Use an instant-read thermometer to check the temperature. Watching the color change is as crucial as stopping the cooking before it burns.
- 8 ounces unsalted butter, 1 cup
- Melt Butter – Add butter to a lightly colored medium skillet. Melt over medium-high heat.
- Brown the Butter – Once the butter is melted completely, turn the heat down to medium. Occasionally swirl the pan to ensure that the milk solids are being evenly browned. The browned butter is ready when the milk solids become golden brown, oil slightly darkens in color, and has a nutty aroma, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Stop Browning – Immediately transfer browned butter to a bowl, scraping down the pan to transfer the solids. Alternatively, use it immediately as a sauce. If desired, strain the browned solids. However, the milk solids add a lot of flavor to baked goods and sauces.
- Recipe Yield: About 1 cup
- Serving Size: 1 tablespoon
- Storing: Cool and store in an airtight container or jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Freeze for up to 3 months.
- Slice the Butter: For quicker melting, slice the butter stick into even-sized pieces and place them in a single layer in the pan.
- Larger Batch: If making a larger batch, use a large pan. A few more minutes may be needed to brown the butter.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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