Clarified butter, and close relation ghee, is simply butter that has been processed to remove any milk proteins, sugars and water. The milk solids are what causes butter to burn if heated for an extended period at high heat. Clarified butter has a higher smoke point than ordinary butter, which means you can cook with it longer at higher temperatures.
While both clarified butter and ghee are more or less pure fat, they are not the same. So what’s the difference between the two? We thought we’d…clarify.
Ghee is clarified butter taken a step further. Instead of stopping the cooking process when the milk solids separate, for ghee you keep going until the solids brown and fall to the bottom of the pan. It will have the same cooking benefits as clarified butter with the addition of a toasted, nutty flavour.
Now back to clarified butter. We use it for frying and sautéing meats, fish and vegetables – it can basically be used for any cooking method that requires high heat. It is also excellent for scrambling eggs and making sauces like béarnaise and hollandaise.
It’s not difficult to clarify your own butter at home. After trying many techniques, we have settled with Alton Brown’s slow melting method which works very well.
Place 650 grams of unsalted butter which has been cut into 2.5 cm pieces into a medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Be sure to use good quality butter – you’ll notice the difference once it’s reduced down.
Once the butter has totally liquefied, decrease the heat to the lowest setting and then adjust to maintain a low boil. Don’t stir during the melting process and don’t worry about the milk solids burning.
Cook for approximately 30 minutes or until the butter reaches 126°C. Alton suggests 45 minutes however we reached this temperature far quicker than expected. At this point, the butter should be clear and the foam on top slightly browned. There is no need to skim the foam during the process – the foam will subside once the butter gets to the clarified form.
Carefully strain the clarified butter through 4 layers of fine cheesecloth set over a heatproof bowl. Cool completely before refrigerating in an airtight container or jar – it can be stored for up to six months or frozen for up to a year.