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Making Clarified Butter

Category Dairy
The finished lump of clarified butter.
This is a guide about making clarified butter. Heat is generally used to separate the milk solids and water from the butterfat to make clarified butter.
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December 27, 2016

There is clarified butter, and then there is ghe or ghee. They are not the same. Clarified butter, or 'drawn butter', as it was called in times past, is the simpler to prepare of the two. It can be used many ways, including sauteeing steaks, as a dip or dressing for lobster, and as I have recently learned, as an excellent oil for popping corn. Essentially, it is regular butter with the milk solids and water removed.

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Ghee, from the Sanskrit word 'ghri' (meaning to sprinkle), takes longer to prepare, involves more steps in the making, and the resulting product is far more stable, both on the shelf and refrigerated. Ghee has more concentrated flavors which are often described as 'nutty'. These nutty flavors are brought about by the browning of the milk solids before they are removed from the butter fat. Ghee is most often used in the preparation of Indian and Southern Asian cuisine.

Since I discovered how much better popcorn tastes when popped in clarified butter, I have done some experimenting to find the easiest way to prepare the butter. Some people who fry with butter, add an amount of Crisco or other fat to increase the butter's smoking point. When they see how easy it is to clarify butter, I think they will use that and not adulterate their butter's taste with other fats.

Clarified butter can be made in any amount. For the purpose of popping enough corn for one or two servings, I use one stick. This yields enough butter for popping the corn, drizzling a good amount over the popped corn, and unless you like your corn heavy with butter, there will be a tablespoon or two left for some other purpose.

When butter is melted, it separates into three layers. The top layer is milk solids. It is these solids that burn when heated to over 350 degrees. The bottom layer is water, whitish in color. This water must be removed also before using the butter for high temperature sauteeing or popping corn.

I think a lot of people would like to try clarified butter but think it too much trouble to make. That is why I experimented to find the easiest way for me, and I hope for you.

Steps:

  1. In a sauce pot over medium low heat, slowly melt one stick of butter. Do not allow the milk solids to brown.
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  3. When all the butter has melted, pour it into a small heat proof cup. I use a Pyrex measuring cup.

    I have watched several videos on clarifying butter. Every one shows the milk solids being removed while the melted butter is still in the sauce pot. I have found that the smaller the surface area, the more easily and quickly the solids can be removed. That's why I transfer the melted butter to a cup. Instead of gathering the solids from an eight inch circle, you can gather them from one that's 1½-2 inches.
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  5. With a spoon (I use a plastic spoon because the spoon edge is thinner, allowing me more accuracy), gently draw the milk solids together to one side of the cup. Lift out these solids and discard.
  6. Continue until you have removed most all the solids. It is important that you remove as much as is practicable, but not that you remove every minute speck.

    It is at this point, I use the melted butter for popping corn. I pour a tablespoon back into the sauce pot, being careful not to disturb the water which has collected at the bottom of the cup. I also use this butter for drizzling over the popped corn, again being careful to not pour out any of the water.
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  8. At some point, you will want to use the remaining butter, and you will want to remove the water before you do. There are several ways to remove this water.

    As I won't be using this 'bottom butter' right away, I will remove the water later, using my refrigerator method. When the refrigerated butter is solid, I use a dinner knife to loosen the butter from the cup. You will see that, left in the bottom of the cup is the whitish water. To remove any water still adhering to the butter, I simply hold the butter under cold running water for a second and then gently pat dry with a paper towel.
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I do hope these little tips will encourage someone who thought clarifying butter too time consuming, to give it a try. Your popcorn will thank you. And your omelette. And your pan fried steak. And so on.

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By 0 found this helpful
March 9, 2009

Does anyone have a recipe on how to make clarified butter using a microwave? No matter how I try, I can't make it on the stove. But I am certainly open to anyone who can give me a simple, fool proof way to do it! Thank you!

metroplex from Houston

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
March 10, 20090 found this helpful
Best Answer

Clarified Butter does not need to be refrigerated. Store it in an airtight container in a cupboard or on your kitchen counter. It may be used in place of regular butter in any recipe in this book. One advantage to using Clarified Butter rather than plain salted or unsalted butter is that it doesn't burn when sauteing nuts and other ingredients. It should always be used in filo recipes because the water in salted or unsalted butter will cause the filo to become soggy. Pastries that specify Clarified Butter will not bake as well with plain butter.

To make 3 to 3 1/2 cups of Clarified Butter: Place 2 lb butter (or margarine if you prefer) in a large, deep microwave-safe bowl. The bowl should be large enough to allow the butter to foam up without overflowing. Microwave on medium power for 6 to 8 minutes until completely melted and hot. Remove from microwave and allow to sit for 10 minutes while the milk solids and liquids settle to the bottom. Skim off any foam that has formed on top, and discard. Carefully pour off or ladle out the clear butter. Discard the milk solids and liquids left at the bottom of the bowl.

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