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How To Make Clarified Butter (and Ghee)

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Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. 

Today: See how simple it is to make your own clarified butter (and ghee), in step-by-step photos.

Finished butter

Clarified butter is the workhorse cooking fat of many a restaurant kitchen and culinary school -- some even keep it in big squeeze bottles for fast access. We think every home cook should know how to harness its potential too. (Maybe without the squeeze bottles.)

If you want to sear a steak or roast potatoes in something that tastes wholesome and good (like butter) and won't smoke or burn (like vegetable oil), clarified butter is your happy medium.

See how it's done -- if you can melt butter, you can clarify it:

Melting butter Melting butter 2

Melt your butter over low-ish heat, without stirring. See those milky solids foaming to the top? Those are what will smoke and burn around 250°F. They've gotta go.

Milk solids

You can skim them away with a spoon ...

Milk solids  Milk solids

... Or you can just wait for the solids to sink to the bottom, which makes it easier to pour off the clear golden fat. (When the solids brown, you get into the territory of ghee, which will have a nuttier flavor than clarified butter that hasn't browned at all.)

Straining  Straining

You can use a fine-mesh strainer -- or even a coffee filter -- to catch the bits.

The more of those milk solids you strain out, the longer it will keep. So if you're making a big amount to store, you may want to rig up an extra layer to strain through (using that coffee filter, or adding cheesecloth to your strainer). For most uses, just a simple strain like in our photos will do the trick.

Either way you remove the milk solids, don't let them go to waste! Spoon them onto bread or biscuits, or add them to your baking -- Food52er Panfusine recommends stirring the browned bits into rice.

Clarified butter

Here it is -- your golden ticket to smoke-free sautéing, searing, roasting, and frying (up to 485°F!). It will keep for months in the refrigerator or freezer. Now go make the world's crispiest potatoes to reap your reward.

Photos by James Ransom