The Temperature Of Your Butter Can Make Or Break Béarnaise

While béarnaise is not one of the French mother sauces, it is one you'll come across at most upscale French restaurants. Whether you have it poured over a pork cutlet or a nice ribeye steak, its herbaceous yet rich finish will have you licking your plate clean. Making the sauce at home, however, can prove quite the culinary challenge in terms of both finding the traditional ingredients and mastering the technique.

Often referred to as the child of the more-famous hollandaise sauce, béarnaise is made up of basically the same ingredients: egg yolks, clarified butter, and white wine vinegar, with the addition of some classic French herbs like tarragon and chervil. Both hollandaise and béarnaise can be difficult sauces to prepare at home, as they require perfect emulsion and a gentle double boiler process. 

Arguably the most important ingredient for making a good emulsion is the type of fat you use. Clarified butter, which is melted butter without milk solids, is often called for in French cooking for its sophisticated flavor. Of all the tricks for perfecting béarnaise at home, using room-temperature butter is one of the most foolproof — here's why.

Use room temperature butter for a decadent béarnaise

Room temperature is the most reliable temperature to keep your butter at. Just as room temperature butter is called for in many dessert recipes, from cakes to frosting, it's the ideal type for velvety béarnaise. Like most French sauces, béarnaise has a temperamental, fragile quality; it splits easily and can come out far too runny if you aren't careful. Most traditional recipes require you to slowly drizzle in melted clarified butter as you vigorously whisk your egg yolk and vinegar over a double boiler. Of course, even when following a traditional recipe with clarified butter, you should use clarified butter that has reached room temperature to not completely scramble your egg yolks or cause your emulsion to break.

However, for an even easier method sans a double boiler, you can use good-quality unsalted butter at room temperature. The process is simple: You heat your vinegar with tarragon, chervil, and shallots to give the sauce its peppery flavor and aroma. Then, you blend it with egg yolks to combine the sauce, and later add a couple of tablespoons of softened room temperature butter at a time. Some use immersion blenders, while others opt for normal smoothie blenders. Whether you want to stick to the classic method or completely forgo the double boiler, just remember to use butter that is at room temperature for a smooth and silky result.