What Are the Best Tips for Making Brown Butter?

Brown butter is a delicious variation of traditional butter that is used in many dishes and is popular in French cuisine. The French term for brown butter is beurre noisette, or hazelnut butter. It is very easy to burn butter when browning it, but a few simple tips can prevent a buttery masterpiece from turning into a bitter disappointment. Some of the best tips for making brown butter are using a stainless steel pan, slicing the butter before melting it, cooking it over medium heat and removing the butter from the heat source at just the right time.

Cooking butter to slightly past the melting point so that it browns nicely without burning requires keeping a close eye on the process. Using a stainless steel frying pan makes this process easier, because the subtle changes in color are easy to spot against the bright sheen of the pan. The desired color for brown butter is amber brown — just a shade darker than the color of honey.

Slice the butter into half-inch (1.27-cm) portions, because the slices make the melting process uniform. Brown the butter over medium heat, allowing it to warm up gradually. Whisk the butter continuously while it heats. The milk in the butter will begin to separate from the butterfat, causing the butter to foam a little in the pan.

After a few seconds, the foam will settle down, and the characteristic nutty aroma will emerge. At this point, the butter starts to brown. Remove the butter from the heat immediately, and transfer it to a cool dish to stop the cooking process and prevent the butter from burning. Be sure to remove the brown butter from the heat source right away.

When transferring the brown butter, use cheesecloth or a fine-meshed sieve to separate the amber liquid from the milk solids. The milk solids will have settled to the bottom of the pan during the browning process. Although it is not necessary to do this, the sediment left behind does have a slightly bitter taste.

Brown butter can be used for any recipe that calls for butter. It is particularly tasty when utilized in pastries or cookies or when drizzled over roasted potatoes with thyme. Its nutty flavor adds warmth to winter squash dishes and is perfectly partnered with roasted chicken and vegetables. Brown butter also can be used in its solidified form as a spread or in frosting.

If the browning process goes a little too far and the butter is burned slightly, it still has a place at the table. Traditional French dishes call for beurre noir, or black butter. Black butter complements shirred eggs and many fish recipes.


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