What Is Clarified Butter, and Why Do Chefs Love It So Much?
It's Martha's secret ingredient for scrambled eggs. It's used in making classic madeleines. And of course, there's nothing quite like it on popcorn. Clarified butter is beloved by chefs, and we're seeing it pop up in more and more recipes for home cooks, but what exactly is clarified butter? To get the details, we chatted with chefs Mark Strausman of Mark's Off Madison and Renee Touponce of Oyster Club.
What Is Clarified Butter, and What Does It Taste Like?
Unlike regular butter, which consists of butterfat, milk, solids and water, clarified butter is just the butterfat. "I'm a big proponent of it, it is truly pure fat," says Strausman. And the taste? Simply put, it's delicious. "It has a nutty, really intense flavor," says Touponce.
How Is It Made?
Clarified butter is made by removing the milk solids and water from regular butter. To do it, butter is heated up slowly, not boiled, until the solids sink to the bottom and it's possible to skim off any foam. The resulting, translucent yellow liquid is the clarified butter.
It's relatively simple to make Clarified Butter at home. Strasuman says you should really read the label of the butter you're starting with and only use butter that is at least 80 percent butterfat and doesn't contain any food colorings.
How Is Ghee Different Than Clarified Butter?
Ghee is a type of clarified butter that's popular in Indian cooking. Making ghee involves the first steps of preparing clarified butter, however, rather than stop cooking when the milk solids separate, you keep cooking until the solids brown and fall to the bottom of the pan. Then you strain the mixture. As a result of the longer cooking, ghee has a nuttier, more caramelized flavor.
How Should I Use Clarified Butter?
One of the beauties of clarified butter, besides its taste, is its high smoke point. While regular butter has a smoke point of 350°F and canola oil has a smoke point of 375 to 450°F, clarified butter has a smoke point of 450°F, making it helpful in getting a really flavorful sear.
"Visually it's got this beautiful, golden color," says Touponce, who likes to use it to poach fish for preserves and finishing sauces. "I squish some tomatoes in it and top it on pasta, fish, or bread." Strausman suggests using it on anything that doesn't have a lot of fat, to begin with, such as vegetables. "There's nothing better than clarified butter and vegetables." Or you could just drizzle it on popcorn.