How to Brown Butter

Brown butter is butter that’s heated until its milk solids turn brown. Use a stainless-steel pan; the butter sticks to aluminum. Whatever you do, don’t use a black-bottomed pan, because you won’t be able see what’s happening to the butter. Any heat will work, but medium is what we recommend. Some people like to strain out the specks, but we don’t; that’s what makes brown butter brown butter.

Three Shades of Butter

Watch the butter closely. When you’ve got the shade you’re looking for, pull the pan from the heat and dip the bottom into a waiting bowl or sink filled with water to arrest the cooking. Otherwise, make sure you pull the pan before the butter achieves the right color, because it will continue to brown for another minute or so in a hot pan.

If you think you went too far and made your butter too brown, don’t throw it away; now you’ve got beurre noir, another sauce—not the one you were aiming for, of course, but good nonetheless. With lemon juice, capers, and parsley, it’s perfect on fish.

NOT BROWN ENOUGH

JUST RIGHT

TOO BROWN

While You’re at It

Brown butter (called beurre noisette in French) is a versatile ingredient:
  • With lemon and parsley, you’ve got a variation on beurre meuniere, a fine sauce for fish.
  • Instead of vegetable oil, use brown butter as the emulsifying fat in a vinaigrette; with balsamic vinegar, it makes a nice sauce for fish, chicken, or vegetables.

Photographs by Maren Caruso