Cooking Tips

How Brown Should Browned Butter Really Be?

There is a point of no return when it comes to deliciously nutty butter.

Published Sept. 14, 2022.

Is there a more mouthwatering descriptor than “browned butter”? From Browned Butter Mashed Potatoes to a browned butter sauce for pan-seared chicken, there’s no doubt that the concept of nutty, rich butter makes everything sound more delicious.

But the process of browning butter—simple as it may seem—requires some particular vigilance. A few seconds too long on the heat and this deeply flavored butter can turn from creamy and caramelly to bitter and burnt.

Here’s how to avoid that.

To brown your butter, add it to a skillet over medium heat, and wait for it to melt. 

How to brown butter

Once it does, it will start to froth and bubble. This is an important moment! Keep watch, and the butter will start to darken.

How to properly brown butter

You want to wait for the milk solids to turn a golden-brown color. The best way to see that this is happening is to use a light-colored skillet that more accurately shows the color of the butter as it cooks (most nonstick skillets work here, but cast iron is far too dark). Once it reaches this color, immediately take it off the heat and pour it into a cool vessel.

How to properly brown butter

If the milk solids start to turn dark brown or black, the milk solids have burnt and are imparting a bitter flavor. The butter has gone too far. 

How to properly brown butter

But even if you have been a little heavy-handed with the heat, don’t toss your butter away just yet! To see if it’s salvageable, simply strain off the burnt milk solids and allow the butter to cool. Then, give your butter a taste; if it’s palatable, you can go ahead and use it to top roasted veggies. If not, have another go and make sure you keep your eyes peeled for that change in color.

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