I’m sure at one point or another you’ve seen a small jar of clarified butter in a high end supermarket… expensive, gourmet, pointless? I mean you’re not a chef, you don’t make hollandaise on a daily basis, is there any benefit to using it?
Ever wondered how your steak has that buttery taste, but isn’t burnt? Perhaps your fried egg is smooth and rich but every time you use butter at home to fry with, it goes a beautiful nut-brown, then too far and burns. When the milk proteins in butter become too hot, they burn and start to smoke, meaning it’s not appropriate to use for searing or high temperature cooking. Remove the milk proteins however, and you are left with pure butterfat, and the difference is unmistakable.
Allow me to clarify (#predadjokes)… butterfat makes up around 80 percent of most butters. This however depends on the type of butter. A more high-end European butter will have a higher amount of butterfat. Whereas a fresh, farm churned butter will typically have less butterfat (about 60-70 percent). So what makes up the rest of butter you ask? Water and proteins. Clarifying butter removes the water and milk proteins leaving you with pure butterfat.
This is a really a simple process to do at home and will have you searing at high temperatures and cooking like a chef in no time. When you heat butter in goes soft, then melts. When at its melting stage, you start to see foam bubbles dancing on the surface. This is water escaping in the form of steam. Once the foaming stops, you know that most of the water vapor is gone, and the next to go is the milk proteins. A white scum will float to the top, which as you melt the butter simply spoon off and discard.
At the bottom of the pan you will see a lot more of this white substance lingering at the base of this pot of liquid gold, more water and proteins. Once you have removed anything that has floated to the top, slowly and carefully pour the pure butterfat into whatever you plan to store it in. As you pour, be aware that you do not want any of the milk proteins or water in your final product. Keep on pouring until you reach the end of the butterfat and throw away the rest.
Now all you have to do is store your butter in the fridge. If you don’t trust yourself to skim the top of the butter while it melts or pour it without making a mess, there is another way. A quick way is to simply melt the butter in the microwave in a safe container, just be careful to keep an eye on it. Once melted, place in the fridge and let it set, once it has set you can scoop off the top layer and dig down through, discarding the water and proteins from the bottom.
There is a difference between the two butters, see picture below. Using the microwave you will get a different result…you will lose a bit of volume. I used the exact same butter for this demonstration and the same method. Losing some amount is inevitable when removing a good 10-20 percent of it’s contents. Remember though, that is water and milk proteins. You are still left with pure butterfat and that is a trade-off I would make time after time.