Ah, brown butter. Everyone’s favorite food group.
Butter is pretty great already, but when you cook it and it gets all nutty and brown, that’s when it becomes the best thing ever. I’m always surprised when a friend asks me what brown butter is. What I want to say is, “Have you been living under a rock?” But what I actually say is more of a waterfall of words telling them how marvelous and life-changing it is and how they have to try it NOW.
I was at a pasta class in Connecticut in September and a few of the attendees hadn’t ever heard of brown butter. I think those of us who have had it can all agree that brown butter and sage (homemade) pasta is the most amazing thing you’ll ever taste.
The next question I get is how to make it at home. My friends, it is so easy to make! You might hate me for showing you because then you’ll want to make it all the time. So actually maybe you’ll love me for it.
You can make it by the pound if you choose. But whatever you do, you need to learn how to make brown butter so you can live out the remainder of your life in happiness. No exaggeration!
Let’s get started! (Full instructions and how-to pics after the jump.)
First make sure you have a pan that is big enough. When the butter is about 3/4 of the way browned, it bubbles up quite a bit and you don’t want it to overflow. Also, try to use a heavy-duty pan so the butter doesn’t burn on the bottom. You can use a skillet for smaller amounts of butter. I prefer stainless steel because it’s easy to see when the butter has reached the correct color. Make sure the pan is clean and dry. No water droplets or cooked on food.
As far as butter goes, you can use salted or unsalted. I’ve never tried browning cultured butter or expensive European butters. We save those for spreading, but it you want to, they would work also.
Start by melting the butter over a gentle heat. You can cut the butter into smaller pieces, but I usually just put the butter in the pan and let it melt. It doesn’t matter if you use room temperature or cold butter. Just be sure to use low to moderate heat vs. high heat and you’ll also keep any splattering at a minimum. If it does start to splatter, use a mesh screen, not a lid which would cause water to drop back down into the pan.
Now we let it cook or toast slowly. The milk solids will begin rise to the surface. They will eventually sink down to the bottom and turn brown and crispy. If you use salted butter, you’ll have extra tasty browned milk solids.
As I said above, the butter will really start to bubble and rise up the sides of the pan. It might even threaten to overflow. You don’t want this to happen, obviously, so you can either use a large enough pan (preferred defense) or stir it down (a decent fix when you use a too-small pan.) Just lift it briefly above the burner as you stir and it will start to calm back down.
The bubbling will start to settle down as the butter is closer to being fully browned. The picture above shows the brown butter when it’s almost there. Be sure to really watch the butter so it doesn’t burn. Don’t answer phone calls or check your email. Be vigilant. You want to remove the pan from the heat before it gets too dark because it will continue browning. Also, be careful. Brown butter is extremely, extremely hot.
This is what it looks like when I remove it form the heat. It will brown a little more from the residual heat. It could be a little lighter or darker than this, but this is our preferred amount of browning.
Pour the butter into a GLASS bowl. Or I guess a metal bowl would work too. But glass is great because it can take the heat without getting too hot itself.
See those tasty brown bits? You’ll want to scrape them out of the pan. They are the best part.
From there, depending on your recipe, use it as is or let it set up a bit. It can be creamed with sugar to make cakes, turned into ice cream, used as a pasta sauce, toss with veggies, or a million other ways that you’ll be sure to think of because more brown butter is BETTER. You’ll see, promise.
And just like that you have brown butter! It will keep for a very long time in the fridge, so you can make it in large batches, transfer to a jar and take a spoonful or more out as needed.
Here are some recipes we like that use brown butter: