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Brown Butter Basics


Q. What is brown butter and how can it be used? — Ginger, Appleton

A. Brown butter is unsalted butter that has been melted over low heat until it separates into its two primary components of butter fat (also known as clarified butter) and milk solids. The butter fat floats and the milk solids rest on the bottom of the pan and when allowed to continue to cook over low heat, the milk solids will toast or brown, giving them a pleasant nutty flavor and brownish tan color. The butter fat and browned milk solids are then stirred back together producing brown butter. If the butter fat is used without reintroducing the browned milk solids it is known as ghee, which is a staple of Indian cuisine.

Brown butter has a very subtle richness and can be used melted or cooled which makes it quite versatile. It is often used in the preparation of baked items including frostings, sweet breads, sauces and many different types of cookies like chocolate chip and butter cookies. On the savory side, brown butter is often used with pasta dishes like gnocchi and couscous. The richness of browned butter also pairs will with delicate fish like flounder and sole as well as enhancing shrimp and scallops.

Once you prepare brown butter and get a taste for it, you will probably find there are lots of ways to use it to enhance your culinary creations.

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