What Is Beurre Monté And When Should You Use It?

Though many French sauces typically stem from one of five mother sauces, there is one simple, two-ingredient emulsion that you might want to master as well. Beurre monté is a combination of butter and water that can be used in so many ways to make dishes ranging from meats to vegetables all the more delicious. But in order to grasp this technique and use it at home, you first need to understand what sets this butter sauce apart from many others.

According to Master Class, butter itself is an emulsion. A stick of butter is largely made up of butter fat, but it does have droplets of water suspended throughout. Beurre monté is just the opposite, an emulsion of butter fat suspended in water to make a smooth and homogenous liquid (via Food and Wine). In order to make this beautifully rich liquid, you will need to follow the specific method of making beurre monté and be able to keep the saucy emulsion at a constant temperature.

How to make beurre monté

To make beurre monté, start by boiling water in a saucepan. Next, reduce the heat so that it is warm enough to melt the butter but not cook or brown it. With the butter cut into smaller pieces, whisk the butter into the hot water a little at a time. Continue to stir until the butter has melted into the water and the two have completely combined. 

The new liquid emulsion requires enough water to stabilize and prevent the butter fat from solidifying. Additionally, the butter must melt to separate the butter fat and milk solids from the water. This happens when the butter reaches a temperature of 158 degrees Fahrenheit.

With a homogenous sauce in the pan, you can continue to add butter until you have enough beurre monté, but note that it is crucial to maintain a temperature of roughly 190 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything below 180 degrees and above 190 can cause the emulsion to break according to Saveur

If you're not sure how much water and liquid to start out with, Smart Kitchen explains that four tablespoons of water and a cup of butter will make one cup of beurre monté sauce.

When to use beurre monté

Beurre monté is primarily used in one of two or three ways. It can be spooned over a dish to finish it off with the silky, creamy butter sauce. Beurre monté can be used as another type of fat, such as oil, to cook different types of meat, fish, seafood, and even vegetables. For example, meat can be basted in the butter sauce while vegetables or lighter, more tender types of protein might be poached in it, according to The Culinary Pro. Master Class also suggests using the butter sauce as a base for creating other types of sauces using additional ingredients to add aromatic flavor. 

But if you end up with more beurre monté than you can actually use for your intended recipe, don't toss it. The leftover sauce can be refrigerated and put to use in other ways. Beurre monté can be reheated and used as regular melted butter would be or turned into clarified butter by removing the milk solids to clarify the butter. Once this has been done, the butter can be used at higher temperatures too. 

What beurre monté is not

There are many French butter sauces and techniques that are quite similar to beurre monté. And while beurre monté might sound simple and straightforward, it is worth knowing what the creamy butter sauce is not. 

Clarified butter is not the same as beurre monté because the water has evaporated and the milk solids have been removed from clarified butter. Though clarified butter can be made from beurre monté, clarified butter is no longer an emulsion.

Another technique that might sound nearly the same as beurre monté is monter au beurre. In this method, cold butter is stirred into a cooked sauce to thicken it. Adding butter also gives the sauce a glossy shine, but this type of emulsion includes far more than butter and water alone. Two additional types of butter sauces that are made following steps close to beurre monté are beurre rouge and beurre blanc. However, these two types of butter sauces are not made using water. Instead, the liquid added to the sauce is red wine or white wine, respectively. 

So, for those hoping to expand their culinary skills, beurre monté is a simple technique that can elevate many dishes. Of course, with these variations, it is a skill that can easily be translated to several other types of French sauces too.