Imagine making butter taste better without adding anything to it. Imagine butter cooked slowly over low heat, its milk solids caramelizing, giving it a nutty sweetness. You get all this from brown butter.
Browning butter is a rather simple kitchen task, but it produces stunning results. So grab a few sticks of butter and a small saucepan and let's upgrade our beloved butter to fragrant, nutty brown butter ready to be used in a batch of fast and fancy sugar cookies, the sauce for pasta, or an elegant dip and spread for your roasted vegetables.
Making Brown Butter
Brown butter is simple enough to make — you melt butter slowly over low heat until it foams and the milky whiteness turns brown and sinks to the bottom of the pan. Two things are happening in the process. First, the water in the butter is cooking out, concentrating the butter's flavor. Second, the butter's milk solids caramelize, flavoring the butter with their nutty richness and extending the life of the butter.
It is important to use a lightly colored pot to brown your butter and have a bowl for cooling standing by. It will seem like the butter is taking forever to brown and then it will go from perfect to burnt in a few short minutes. The light pot will help you keep an eye on things, while the bowl will quickly cool and stop the cooking process.
Read more: 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Brown Butter
To Strain or Not to Strain?
Some brown butter recipes call for straining the flecks of browned milk solids out of the butter before storing. I prefer to leave them in the butter, as I think they make the stored butter more flavorful. If your browned butter got slightly burned, straining can save the butter. Strained brown butter is ideal if you plan to use the browned butter for sautéing.
How to Use Brown Butter
Brown butter can be used anywhere you'd use butter, including spreading on toast, topping pancakes, making pie crust, roasting vegetables, baking cookies, adding to hot buttered rums, adding to more butter, making into a sauce for vegetables, eating with a spoon, baking quick breads, making cinnamon rolls, topping biscuits, sautéing vegetables, searing steaks, and scrambling eggs, just to name a few.
A Few of Our Favorite Brown Butter Recipes
How To Brown Butter
Makes about 6 ounces brown butter
What You Need
(8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into uniform pieces
Medium saucepan or skillet
Melt the butter: Melt the butter in a light-colored saucepan over medium heat. Swirl the pan occasionally to be sure the butter is cooking evenly.
Watch carefully: As the butter melts, it will begin to foam. The color will progress from lemony-yellow to golden-tan to, finally, a toasty-brown.
Remove to a heatproof bowl: Once you smell that nutty aroma, and the butter is the color of graham cracker crumbs, take the pan off the heat and transfer the browned butter into a heatproof bowl.
Storing the brown butter: Once cool to the touch, transfer to a glass jar and store at room temperature for 5 days or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Freezing brown butter: Brown butter can also be frozen for up to 3 months in an airtight container.