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Clarified butter, also known as "drawn" butter (though simple melted butter is sometimes referred to as drawn butter as well) is a form of butter from which the milk fat solids and water have been removed. What this results in is a clear form of pure butter fat that has a pure taste, a transparent color, a high smoking point, and a longer shelf-life.
Why Clarify Butter?
1. Clarified butter has a good-looking transparent color that makes it great for visual appeal. It is often served as a dipping sauce for some luxury foods, such as prawns or lobster.
2. Clarified butter will last longer than regular butter. Removing the solids causes the butter to retain a longer shelf life. Clarified butter can be stored at room temperature, and may keep for two months or longer.
3. Clarified butter has a high smoking point. This means that when it is used to sauté or fry foods, it will retain a high temperature for a longer period of time without burning. If you turn a pan on high heat and put regular butter in it, it will burn within minutes. Thus, clarified butter is great for cooking foods at high temperature, where you desire the flavor of butter, but are worried about burning.
4. Clarified butter has a great, rich and pure flavor.
Storing Clarified Butter
Clarified butter will not spoil if left out on the counter like regular butter. However, if you are clarifying your own butter, be aware that the butter must be thoroughly clarified in order to achieve this. If any milk solids are left in the butter, it will be prone to spoilage. Therefore, if you are unsure, simply store the butter in the refrigerator.
Note: store clarified butter in an air-tight container, especially when kept in the refrigerator, since it is very prone to picking up the scents of other foods, and may alter or ruin the flavor of your dishes if it picks up the wrong types (e.g. fish, onion, etc.).
Types of Clarified Butter
Ghee - this butter from India is boiled until the water has evaporated and the milk solids have settled. The clarified butter is then scooped off.
Ghee is used very heavily in India, and is also used in other parts of Asia and the Middle East.
Beurre Noisette (or brown butter) - in Europe, this is melted butter that has been cooked to separate the solids and butter fat. The butter is then cooked until it starts to turn brown, hence the term "brown butter". This butter has a distinctive nutty flavor.
This type of butter is commonly used in France for baking, but may also be found used throughout Europe, not only for baking, but also for a sauce.
How to Make Clarified Butter
Use unsalted butter. Over a low heat, melt the butter in a pan until it separates into layers. Skim off the foamy top layer with a spoon. When the top layer has been removed and there are only two layers left (the clear butter fat and the milk solids that have settled to the bottom), take the pan off of the heat, and let it sit for a minute or two to be sure the solids have settled. Next, strain the mixture through a fine sieve or through a very fine cheese cloth. You may also use a gravy separator to assist with this process.
Another way to separate the solids from the butter fat is to cool the separated mixture in a refrigerator until it becomes solid, then scrape off the fatty layer.
Tip: if you want to make a more powerfully-flavored butter, such as beurre noisette, continue to cook the butter in the pan after it has separated, until it reaches a rich brown color.
Also, try clarified butter with fresh seasonal vegetables, and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. This goes especially well with broccoli, cauliflower, and green beans!
Lobster with Drawn Butter
Note: I recommend storing your clarified butter in the refrigerator, since there may be some milk solids left. However, be aware that the clarified butter will become grainy when it gets cold. In order to retain its transparent color, serve it right away or melt it before serving.
For a great recipe using clarified butter, check out the Food Network site.