Browned Butter, also known as beurre noisette, is the process of cooking unsalted butter until the water has been cooked out and it has a nutty and toasty taste. It adds lots of flavor to recipes like my Browned Butter Toffee Cookies.
Browning butter gives you a sauce that can be added to recipes from savory, like my Brown Butter Pork Chops with Mushrooms to sweet, like my Brown Butter Fudge. There is science behind browned butter, which explains the process of making it. It can be tricky to get just right, but it will be worth the effort!
How to Brown Butter
Butter is the only ingredient you will need for browned butter. And, you will definitely need a watchful eye. To get started, first, melt the butter in a skillet or light-bottomed pan. A light-colored pan makes it easier to see the different stages of browning.
While the butter is heating, the water in the butter will start to evaporate, which causes bubbling. Once the water has evaporated, the milk proteins in the butter can start to brown. (Please note: Depending on how much water your stick of butter contains will determine how much brown butter is left behind. In general, a stick of butter will yield about 6 tablespoons of browned butter.)
Add butter to a pan with high sides. Start melting.
Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to keep the milk proteins (brown specks) from sticking. Continue to scrape the pan until your desired brown color has been reached. This generally takes 5-8 minutes. If you lower the heat to medium-low, it will take longer (but easier to manage). You will also notice a nutty smell. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the browned butter into a heat-safe bowl. Continue to stir for about a minute as it cools.
What Color Should It Be?
While browning butter, there are generally three color stages it will go through before being burnt. When you see a light brown color, the sauce will have a milder flavor. Next is a golden brown color. And finally, a dark brown color means the sauce has the most complex flavor and is most often used in baked goods.
Once the butter has reached your desired color, remove it from the heat right away (be quick about it) and pour it into a heat-safe bowl so it doesn’t burn. Stir it for an additional minute as it cools down.
You will want your browned butter to be a dark shade of brown, just like the last picture, for the most complex and nutty flavor.
Can I Brown Butter Ahead of Time?
Yes! Browned butter can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer to be used in the next recipe that calls for it. To store it in the refrigerator, let it cool, and then store it in a sealed container like a mason jar. It will last up to 5 days. To freeze browned butter, divide it into an ice cube tray to be frozen. It will last in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- ½ cup (1 stick, 113g) unsalted butter
- In a stainless steel skillet (or another light-bottomed pan) over medium-high heat, melt the butter, swirling the pan occasionally. The butter will begin to foam, which signals the water in the butter is boiling off. (Watch closely at this stage; browned butter and burnt butter are within seconds of each other.) Tiny brown specs of milk solids will begin to appear at the bottom of the pan; constantly stir and scrape these off using a spatula so they don't stick.
- As soon as the butter turns chestnut brown and smells nutty, remove the pan from the heat. Pour the browned butter into a large, heat-safe bowl, making sure to get all the browned bits. Continue to stir the browned butter for 1-2 minutes as it cools down.
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