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Food & Drink

How to clarify butter

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 (iStock)

Clarified butter is the golden-yellow butterfat that remains after you remove the water and milk solids from regular butter. Also referred to as drawn butter, clarified butter has a longer shelf life than regular butter and can be heated at higher temperatures without burning. This makes it useful for stir-frying. Clarified butter is served with seafood like lobster and crab, and can be used in butter-based sauces like Hollandaise. You may find clarified butter in the grocery store, but it is almost as easy to clarify butter yourself.

Straining versus skimming

When clarifying butter, the basic objective is to remove the components that keep sticks of butter sticking together, leaving only the butterfat. Start with a good quality of butter, such as organic. There are two popular approaches to clarifying butter: straining and skimming. If you are going along with the skimming method, melt your unsalted butter over low heat in a sauce pan. If you plan to use the clarified butter in a recipe, you may need to start with more butter than the recipe calls for because the volume will shrink during the clarification process. As the butter melts, it will begin to separate into three layers. When the butter has melted and is simmering but not boiling, remove the top foamy layer with a spoon or ladle. Continue to extract the milk solids until you are left with the yellow butterfat. The water evaporates gradually.

You can also boil the butter until all of the water has evaporated. Strain it through a cheesecloth, tea strainer, coffee filter or fine-mesh skimmer. Be aware that the butter might not be able to withstand as much heat again after it has been boiled, so this method is great for making lobster dipping butter. Store the clarified butter in a covered glass jar for up to six months. You can also refrigerate it.