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Technique: How to make brown butter

Brown butter is a delicious way to add rich, complex flavor to dishes from desserts to pastas. Although it may sound intimidating, it’s actually a very simple process and a cinch to make.

What is Brown Butter?

First let’s talk a bit about butter. Made from cream, butter is made up of butterfat, milk solids and water. When you melt it, these things separate, which allows you to do some pretty cool things with butter, such as brown or clarify it. The key to Browned Butter is the milk solids, which turn brown and toasted when you use the following technique.

How to Make Brown Butter

Gather Your Equipment ​

​To start, find yourself a skillet or saucepan. We recommend using a shiny pan with a silver finish or a cermaic coated pan because it allows you to see the transition as the butter melts down and changes color from light to dark golden brown more easily. Dark colored pans make it really hard to see the color change.

Add the Butter

Place the skillet over medium heat and add your butter. You can use either salted or unsalted butter when making brown butter. The butter can be used straight from the fridge or freezer since it's being melted, you don't need to worry about softening it.

Swirl Pan as Butter Melts

Allow the butter to melt, swirling the pan or stirring to keep it moving. As it melts, there will be some frothing and bubbling (shown below) — this is normal.

Milk Solids Start to Brown

As the butter continues to cook, the milk solids will start to brown. This can take anywhere from 5-7 minutes.

Finding the Perfect Golden Brown

Stay close to your pan because the trickiest part of browned butter is getting it just brown enough—not too dark or too light. Too light, and it won’t have the characteristic nutty flavor and aroma. Too dark, and it may start to taste (and look) burnt. Your nose will be the first to tell you are browning your butter. The aroma is amazing—very nutty. Continue cooking the butter until it takes on a beautiful golden color. From the start of browning to perfect browned butter it only takes a minute or two.

Remove From Pan

Once your butter has reached that golden brown color, remove it from the pan—either into your final application or to another dish and enjoy. It’s important to remove the butter from the heat as leaving it in the hot pan or on the stove can push it over the edge from deliciously golden brown to burnt. If your butter goes too far and burns sadly there is no saving it. Count it as a learning experience and start over.

The Finished Product – Browned Butter

Browned butter is a fantastic ingredient to add to both sweet and savory dishes. Our staff in the Test Kitchen loves using it to bring depth and richness to some of their favorite recipes. Browned butter can be made and stored in a covered container in the fridge for future use. It will keep as long as the original best by date. With flavors that span across sweet and caramelly to toasted and nutty, browned butter is an aromatic ingredient we encourage you to try! Below are some Test Kitchen Approved browned butter recipes that are sure to win in your kitchen. Brown Butter Cookies

  • 1 cup Butter

  • 3/4 cup sugar

  • 1 Egg

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • Decorator sugars

  1. STEP 1 Melt butter over medium-high heat in heavy 2-quart saucepan. Continue cooking, watching closely, 3-5 minutes or until butter foams and just turns a delicate golden color. Immediately remove from heat; refrigerate 30 minutes.

  2. STEP 2 Heat oven to 350°F.

  3. STEP 3 Combine browned butter, sugar, egg and vanilla in bowl. Beat at medium speed until well mixed. Continue beating, gradually adding flour, until well mixed.

  4. STEP 4 Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in decorator sugars. Place 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Flatten with tines of fork.

  5. STEP 5 Bake 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Let stand 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to cooling rack. Cool completely.

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