4 Things We Learned About Butter from Julia Child

updated Aug 27, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.

It’s hard to deny just how much Julia Child taught us about cooking. Thanks to Julia, we know how to make perfect poached eggs, whip up mayonnaise by hand, and avert serious kitchen disasters.

But perhaps one of the most valuable things she instilled in us is her appreciation for butter — and lots of it.

Butter played a role in practically all of her cooking — especially in many of her most famous recipes. Here are just a handful of the wonderful things she taught us about butter.

1. Don’t be afraid of butter.

Julia famously said, “With enough butter, anything is good.” She ferociously loved butter at a time when most people in the United States were completely afraid of it. Now, as the times have changed, we’re beginning to see exactly what she saw: Real butter isn’t such a bad thing after all, particularly if enjoyed in moderation, along with everything else.

(Image credit: Ariel Knutson)

2. Add oil to your butter for sautéing.

Cooking at a high heat with butter often leads to failure. Unless you are actually making brown butter (which is also a wonderful thing), if you simply want to sauté in melted butter, it usually browns and burns too quickly before your food is actually cooked.

Julia suggests adding a little olive oil to the pan along with the butter. This fortifies the butter and prevents it from burning.

3. Or skip the oil and clarify your butter.

Take it one step further by clarifying your butter instead, and you won’t need to use oil at all. To clarify butter, you heat it on the stove so that it melts and the water in it evaporates while the milk solids separate from the butterfat and sink to the bottom. The milk solids are strained out, leaving you with pure butterfat, aka clarified butter.

This has a higher smoke point than regular butter, which is the temperature at which it begins to burn and smoke. Julia often used clarified butter to sauté and roast food at high heat without the risk of the butter completely burning.

4. Use butter to get the crispiest chicken skin.

Who doesn’t love extra-crispy skin on a roast chicken? There are plenty of methods for achieving it, but there’s no better tip than the simplest one that comes from Julia. Her classic roast chicken is foolproof, and the reason for that is butter. The cavity is stuffed with lemon and sautéed vegetables, and then the skin is seasoned and massaged with plenty of softened butter, which infuses flavor and fat into the meat and skin while crisping up the skin perfectly. It’s not complicated — it just works.

Get the Recipe: Julia’s Favorite Roast Chicken at Food & Wine

5. When in doubt, go for beurre blanc.

When all else fails, there’s beurre blanc. What is it, you ask? It’s one of the most magical sauces, and literally translates to “white butter.” Reduce some white wine and white wine vinegar in a saucepan, add shallots and maybe a touch of cream, then whisk in a whole lot of butter until everything is emulsified and you’re left with a smooth, rich sauce.

The result is creamy and decadent; it enhances pretty much anything you’re cooking. Drizzle it over simple steamed vegetables, flaky fish, shrimp, scallops, or chicken.