Clarified butter, or whole butter with the water and milk solids taken out of it, is preferred in certain forms of cooking, like pan frying or sautéing, due to its much higher smoking point than regular butter (that means that the butter and what you're cooking in it are less likely to burn). Clarified butter also produces crispier results than regular butter when used in dishes made with phyllo, and it makes a wonderful dipping sauce for lobster and other shellfish. In addition, clarified butter can be used in recipes that call for ghee.
In this video, chef Bruce Mattel of The Culinary Institute of America demonstrates how to turn regular butter into clarified butter simply by simmering the butter in a heavy gauge pot to evaporate the water, and once it has melted to the point that the butter is clear (revealing the bottom of the pot), he separates the milk solids with a strainer and a piece of cheese cloth.
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I'm Chef Bruce Mattel from the Culinary Institute of America, and I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: how to make clarified butter.
Clarified butter is whole butter with the water and the milk solids taken out of it. The reason we do that is either to raise the smoking point, so that it's easier to cook with, or to use in certain preparations.
We start with whole butter, and all we do is put it into a heavy gauge pot, such as this one here. I would recommend that you start it over medium heat. Once the butter's completely melted, you'll see it'll start to simmer - and what you see going on there is really the water trying to boil out of it, and that's what you want to do.
Our butter's starting to melt and starting to simmer, and if you look closely, already we're starting to see some separation of the fat. We have fat rising to the top, and along the sides where it's starting to simmer, you can tell that that's water trying to simmer out. So now that our butter is simmering, it'll take approximately ten to fifteen minutes for the clarification to take place. I'm going to turn down the heat just a bit - like I mentioned, you want to simmer it; you want to do low, low heat.
As we can see, the butter is now clarified. You can see right down through the butter to the bottom of the pot. Now we're ready to strain our clarified butter to make sure all the milk solids have been taken out of it, so I'm going to take a towel and I'll move the pot off the fire onto the towel. I'm going to grab a ladle, and here I have a bowl and a strainer lined with a piece of cheesecloth. I'm just going to take ladles of the clarified butter out of the pot; you'll be able to see the clarity of that butter as it comes into the bowl. We'll get our last little bit of clarified butter through our strainer, and now we can see our clarified butter is ready: the milk solids are out, the water is out, and it's ready to be used for pan-frying or sautéeing. It now has a much higher smoking point. And it's as simple as that.