How To Clarify Butter

Because olive oil just can't compete

Let's clear up a common misunderstanding: Butter isn't just pure fat.

Unlike most cooking oils, which are 100 percent fat, most American butter clocks in at around 81 percent, with the remaining 19 percent made up of water and milk solids. (European butter comes in at around 83 to 86 percent fat.) So if you want just that rich, golden pool of pure butterfat—aka clarified butter—you've got to separate everything else out. In addition to refining the flavor, you're increasing the smoking point, so that you can use the butter for frying or cooking at high temperatures.

To do this, heat cubed, unsalted butter to boiling point in a small saucepan over medium-low heat or in the microwave on high for about 2 minutes.

When foam starts rising to the top, use a metal spoon to skim off the foamy layer until there is almost no foam in sight. Pour the warm butter through a cheesecloth-lined strainer to ensure that no milky liquid is left behind. Store in the fridge for up to four to six months.


A few tips for better butter:

• Always use unsalted butter for clarifying—and cooking in general—unless otherwise specified. Save the salted stuff to spread on warm bread.

• You'll be losing upward of 20 to 25 percent of the volume of butter, so plan ahead. This also is not the time to reach for bargain-basement butter. Splurge on good quality. You'll see, smell and taste the difference.

• Don't try making clarified butter with only a few tablespoons. Use at least two sticks (one cup) of butter. Otherwise, your butter could scorch, and you'll end up with a burned mess. After it's all skimmed and strained, you'll end up with about three quarters of a cup of clarified butter.