The Foolproof Way to Brown Butter (That Doesn’t Require a Stovetop)

updated Mar 3, 2021
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Salted toffee and brown butter blondies stacked.
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

It’s just a stone-cold fact that brown butter makes baked goods and savory treats taste better. Whether it’s something sweet (sugar cookies, blondies, cake or cobbler) or savory (vinaigrette, pasta or Brussels sprouts), brown butter works some serious magic, flavor-wise. It has a depth and intensity that melted butter lacks, and tastes both a little nutty and a little toasty.

It is not always an ingredient that people can identify, as in “Oh gosh, this cake is so good, you must have browned the butter.” Instead, it solicits more of a “Oh man, I can’t quite put my finger on it, but this is so delicious” kind of reaction. It leaves folks deeply satiated, but not 100% sure what just hit them (my above-mentioned blondies are a case in point). 

Brown butter is not hard to make on the stovetop, but it can be slightly annoying. For instance, for optimum stovetop brown buttering, your butter should be uniformly cubed (so it browns evenly); the temperature of the burner must be just right, ensuring the butter melts and browns relatively quickly (so that you’re not tied to your stove all afternoon), without overcooking. Most vexing? You need to be vigilant when browning butter, watching it and stirring it or swirling the pan periodically in order to remove it from the heat when it reaches its optimum color and smell and before it goes from that to burnt (which happens in a heartbeat). 

But what if I told you that you could avoid all of the above fussiness by making brown butter in your microwave? Not only does doing so free up stovetop space and avoid kitchen counter splatters, but it’s dead simple and foolproof, to boot. Kind of a game-changer, no?

Credit: Jessie Sheehan

How to Brown Butter in the Microwave

In short, butter, roughly cut, is transferred to a microwave-safe bowl with a cover and microwaved on high for about 10 minutes if you’re browning a cup of butter (less time if you’re browning less). If your butter is not browned to your liking when the time is up (nutty smell, browned bits, a deep amber color), no biggie: Just stick it back in the microwave for a minute or two, or more. I have never burned my brown butter in the many years of microwaving it, so there’s that, too.

The most important thing to note is that making brown butter this way is a 100% hands-off experience — almost no “active” time, as they say, required. And if you’re lucky, you can reuse the bowl that you browned the butter in when you assemble your recipe — perhaps leading to the coveted one-bowl baking situation!

Browning butter on the stovetop is not the thorniest of kitchen tasks, I get it, but it is just this side of tricky — and making it in the microwave is nothing if not easy-peasy. Give it a try (and whip up some blondies while you’re at it!). Not only will you taste the difference, but you’ll also know exactly how the difference came to be — even if no one else does.

Credit: Jessie Sheehan

A Few of Our Favorite Brown Butter Recipes