What is brown butter?
Brown butter is butter that has been liquified just past its melting point so that the milk solids in the butter begin to toast, creating nutty aroma and a depth of flavor.
How to make brown butter
While it is easy to make brown butter, it’s also easy to burn it. Follow these steps to make sure you have success.
Prepare the butter: Cut the butter into evenly sized pieces. It is important not to use different sized pieces or the butter will melt unevenly and the small pieces will cook faster than the larger pieces.
Prepare your pan: Choose a pan that has a light bottom (so not a cast iron), so that you can see when the butter is beginning to brown. If you use a pan with a dark bottom you risk letting the butter burn because you can’t see the color change.
Setting the heat: Use medium heat when making brown butter. If you set the heat too high, the butter is more likely to burn. By using a lower heat you have more control over the process.
Stirring: As the butter melts, stir it occasionally, though not too often. You want to move the butter around so it cooks evenly and the milk solids don’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. It should take about 5 minutes for the butter to melt and begin to foam.
Use all your senses: After the butter melts it will begin to bubble and crackle. If you’ve set it on medium heat, the butter should be browned at around the same time that the crackling stops and the bubbles subside.
LISTEN: For when the crackling begins to die down.
WATCH: Sometimes the bubbles can obfuscate what is happening at the bottom of the pan, so move the bubbles aside as you stir to make sure there aren’t milk solids at the bottom of the pan beginning to burn. Look for signs that the butter is starting to brown.
SMELL: You will begin to notice a lovely nutty aroma coming from the butter as it browns.
Act fast: It takes a split second to go from brown butter to burnt butter. So when it looks done, it is. Don’t wait an extra 10 seconds before taking it off the heat. When you smell the nuttiness, don’t hear the crackle, and see it brown, take it off the heat immediately and pour it into a glass bowl to stop it from continuing to cook in the hot pan.
You can use the browned butter with the browned milk solids in the butter or you can strain it out so that just the liquid infused with the flavor is left over.
If the butter burns, there is no way to save it. Toss the burnt butter and start over.
You can use the browned butter immediately in a recipe, store it in an air tight glass jar at room temperature for up to 5 days, covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or you can freeze it for up to 3 months.