Today’s post is coming relatively late in the day, mainly because I am a poor planner and only shot my footage for the video at around 1pm today. At any rate, today’s fundamental: how to make browned butter.
Some of you may be asking why you’d want to brown butter in the first place? The answer is to heighten the flavor of the butter, making it both nutty and a bit butterscotchy. The French call browned butter beurre noisette, which means hazelnut butter. This of course has to do with the nutty aroma, but I would also say that the color of the browned milk solids are about the color of hazelnut skins as well: a deep, almost mahogany color. But not black. Black equals burned.
Browned butter is really a misnomer, because we’re not browning the butter itself so much as we are browning the milk solids in the butter and then infusing that caramelized flavor into the remaining butterfat. That’s a bit of a hair-splitting distinction, but now you know so you can be That Smart One who knows a bunch of awesome stuff about cooking.
Since browned butter has a deeper flavor than “regular” butter, it of course will deepen the flavor of everything you put it in. It works especially well with recipes calling for brown sugar–chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies, blondies, etc–because it reinforces the toffee-ish flavor profile that you get when you mix butter and brown sugar.
On the savory side of things, browned butter works really well with fall flavors: butternut squash and pumpkin come immediately to mind. There is a reason that pumpkin ravioli in browned butter and sage is such a beloved dish. Add it to sauces and gravies whenever you want to heighten caramelized flavor.
Browned butter also has a higher smoke point than whole butter since we no longer have to worry about the milk solids burning because they’re gone. Try pan frying fish in browned butter, tilting the pan and spooning the hot fat over the fish as it cooks.
Keep in mind that, because browned butter is 100% fat and whole butter is only about 80% fat, if you want to substitute browned butter for whole butter in baking without any change in the texture of the finished dish, you’ll have to decrease the amount by 20% and increase the liquid by the same amount. If a recipe calls for 4 oz (1 stick) of butter, substitute 3.2 oz browned butter (4 oz times 80%) and add an extra .8 oz liquid (4.0-3.2=0.8).
I will let the video speak for itself, but in short, work over medium heat, swirling the pan often. Once the milk solids sink, it will not take long for them to brown, so keep an eye on it and strain it out into a waiting bowl as soon as it browns.
Now here’s the video for the longer version of how to make browned butter.
I hope you find this fundamental skill helpful in your cooking and baking.
If you have any requests for Fundamental Friday posts, please don’t hesitate to ask. This brown butter post is the result of a reader request.
Thank you so much for spending some time here today.
Have a lovely day.
PS Keep an eye out for all the Fundamental Friday posts.