Brown butter (or “buerre noisette” if you wanna sound fancy and French) is one of those mysterious secrets to good cooking. Or is it? Truth is brown butter adds rich, nutty taste, smells incredible…and is very, very easy to make. It’s great on savory dishes like pasta. Or toy can cream it into cakes or cookies to add another layer of complex flavor.
It’s pretty simple, really. And something everyone should know how to make. Here’s how to do it:
- Make sure you start with a light-colored pot so you can clearly see what’s going on. Color changes make a difference when you are browning butter. Start with some butter and begin melting it over medium heat. Swirl the pan occasionally to ensure it is heating evenly.
- Let’s back up a half-step. You should know that butter is made up of butterfat, water, and milk proteins (13-17%). You have to get rid of the water to start browning the milk proteins. So bring the butter up to 212 degrees F to evaporate out the water. Once you reach this point your butter will begin to bubble and splatter. So you may find a splatter screen helpful here to keep things a little neater.
- The butter will start to foam (after about five minutes) and the color will change from yellow to a golden tan and eventually to a toasty brown. Keep a close eye on it at this point. From here, let your nose be your guide. The milk solids will start browning (dark golden flecks). Keep it moving with a rubber/silicone spatula so the flecks don't start to burn. Sometimes it’s hard to see what’s happening underneath, so you might consider removing some of the foam.
- As it starts to smell "nutty" remove it from the heat and transfer it to a bowl to cool. Milk solids will cook faster and will begin to settle on the bottom of the pan. Try to leave this behind when you move it to the bowl. Or you could use a cheese cloth to capture the particles. HINT: Some people like to leave in some of those solids. Decide how much (if any) YOU like and want to leave in.
As a variation, you can add other ingredients. The most popular is sage leaves, but you can add in just about any aromatic herb. Try rosemary, thyme, or tarragon. Just add them in as the butter melts.
There are so many ways to use this "magical" ingredient - toast, pasta, popcorn, cookies, cakes, etc.
It's easy. It adds complexity to your flavors. And it sure impresses others! Give it a try! Trust me, you'll wonder why you didn't try this one before! :)