Clarified Butter Recipe
I am posting this recipe for clarified butter because I will reference clarified butter as an ingredient a number of times in my recipes. Using saturated fat for cooking at high heats is something I’m passionate about for health reasons based on biochemistry. I have put something of an introduction to that subject at the end of this post. Those of you who just want the recipe for clarified butter (also called drawn butter) don’t need to read on if you’re not interested. I’ll expand that introduction in to a much more thorough post in the near future.
Butter is made up of three components: butterfat, moisture (water) and milk solids. It is essentially a highly concentrated form of milk made by churning cream or milk. The milk can come from any mammal but we most commonly use the milk from cows. Butter is generally used as a spread but can also be used for cooking to impart a rich flavor and irreplicable mouth-feel. The only problem with using it for cooking is that butter has a very low smoke point (around 325F). The smoke point is basically the point at which the fat begins to break down and no longer tastes or smells good and becomes unhealthy due to oxidation. We don’t want that! And so, we make clarified butter which removes the moisture and milk solids and leaves behind the pure butterfat. It has a smoke point of nearly 500F. Prepare for your kitchens to smell divine, people!
To make clarified butter, you will need high quality, high butterfat content unsalted butter. When you make the clarified butter, the total volume of butter is going to decrease by about 25% so keep that in mind. It’s an animal product, so consider the welfare of the animal from which you are making it. This is another reason to buy high quality butter from a reputable source.
Cut the butter in to cubes and put it in to a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a very low heat until it’s melted.
Let the butter simmer gently until foam begins to rise to the top. The foam is the water content boiling off and the white residue is the milk solids in the butter.
The butter may splatter a bit while it is simmering so be careful. Once there doesn’t seem to be any more foam rising to the surface, remove the pan from the heat and skim off the foam with a spoon or ladle. Set it aside in a bowl. What you’ll have left is the pure golden butterfat.
You might not be able to get all the white residue. That’s OK because next we strain it. To do this part, cover a fine mesh strainer with cheesecloth or muslin and pour what is left in the pan through the lined strainer in to a glass dish.
There! You have your clarified butter. It should last quite a bit longer than regular butter because the milk proteins have been removed. Some people say it’s OK to store it on the counter for that reason, but I usually put mine in to the fridge to make sure it’s properly preserved. For you, Mom, I label and date it 😉 (This is also a shout-out to my mom who always lets me know if my posts need some editing!)
What you do with the milk solids is up to you. Some people just discard them but I think that’s a shame! I have heard they are really good in oatmeal and for finishing risottos, soups, and creamy pasta dishes. I wouldn’t know because I do something a little shocking with them. It’s actually something your little ones would absolutely love, buuut since I don’t have any little ones…I indulge myself. I simply mix in a little bit of honey (you could use granulated sugar too) and spoon them in to my mouth. I can’t describe how incredibly delicious this treat is. You will get just a couple spoonfuls from a block of butter. If anyone out there has other ideas for the milk solids, I’d love it if you left them in the comments!
Why I use clarified butter to cook at high heat:
All food that is cooked at high temperatures should be cooked in saturated fat. The reason is that fatty acids are chains of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms filling the available bonds. In saturated fats, all carbon bonds are occupied by a hydrogen atom. This makes them very stable and able to withstand high temperatures. The two types of saturated fat that are generally used for cooking are coconut oil and butter. Some of the other fatty acids (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) have one or two double bonds, respectively, that lack a hydrogen atom. This makes them unstable at high temperatures. The result of this instability is the production of free radicals when they break down. As we are all well aware by now, free radicals wreak havoc on our bodies and cause cellular damage. Olive oil and some of the nut oils (almond, avocado, peanut, etc.) are monounsaturated so they are relatively more stable than polyunsaturated. For that reason, they don’t oxidize quite as easily when high temperatures are applied but still can’t be used at many normal cooking temperatures. Some of you may be balking at the idea of using saturated fat because we’ve been told for so long that it is bad for us. I believe the opposite based on some research I have been doing but, again, that is a post for another day.
Now I know that some of you will argue that animal products and/or high temperature cooking should not be part of any diet. I respect that but for my own diet, I am an advocate of using small amounts of animal-derived fats and protein. I try to include lots of raw food, but I do cook a fair bit of my food too. Butter is one of the ways that I incorporate healthy animal fats in to my diet because I eat very little meat. It works well when I use it at high temperatures and I want the rich flavor of butter instead of coconut oil but need to surpass regular, unclarified butter’s low smoke point. In addition to the fact that it is absolutely, positively delicious! I am in the process of experimenting more with raw dairy (and therefore, butter) that has not been pasteurized or homogenized but I’m still in store-bought land at this point.