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How To Make Perfect Brown Butter

Do it right and your kitchen will smell like delicious, toasty hazelnuts. Do it wrong and your kitchen will smell like burnt coal and defeat.

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Solid butter is actually an emulsion of water and fat, with milk protein solids suspended inside. As it melts, the water evaporates and the milk solids are exposed to heat and start to turn brown.

Sometimes called beurre noisette (which translates literally to hazelnut butter and is so named because it smells like hazelnuts and has a similar nutty color), brown butter has all the great qualities of regular butter, plus a nutty, toasted flavor that makes baked goods and sauces taste that much richer. And, it is a pretty brown color. Basically, it is excellent.


First cut the butter into tablespoon-sized pieces.

Most butter comes in packaging that measure tablespoons for you. If yours doesn't, it's OK to approximate. It is most important to cut the butter into pieces that are all the same size, because they all need to melt at the same speed.

Next, put your cut butter in a LIGHT-COLORED saucepan, then heat over medium heat.

You need a light-colored pan because being able to see the color of your butter is super important. If your pan has a dark bottom, you won't be able to see how light or dark your butter is.



Now that your butter is melted and the water is evaporating out, the milk protein solids will start to cook — it's just like any other kind of frying; put a solid in hot oil and it will cook and brown, but leave it in too long and it will burn — and you want to keep them moving so they brown evenly. Otherwise, some of the solids will burn before others even have a chance to brown.

As the foam begins to subside, keep stirring and keep a really close eye on the color of your butter. It will start to brown and look like this:

See how the solids have turned a light brown color? That is EXACTLY what you want. Also, your whole kitchen will smell really delicious at this point, like toasted hazelnuts.

QUICK! When your butter is a shade lighter than you think it should be, give it a final stir or swirl, turn off your heat and GET THE BUTTER OUT OF THE PAN.

Butter will continue to brown when you take it off the heat, and perfect brown butter can turn into burnt butter in seconds.

Pour the browned butter into a heatproof container and give yourself a very well-deserved pat on the back. Then use it to make something delicious.

You can either use the browned butter right away, or store it in the refrigerator for later. Refrigerated, it'll keep for up to 2 weeks.