Liquid Gold (a.k.a. Clarified Butter and Ghee)

Liquid Gold (a.k.a. Clarified Butter and Ghee)


We’re big fans of clarified butter in Brain Food Kitchens, which means we go through a lot of it. Every few weeks we make a batch so that we always have it on hand.

Clarified butter and, the closely related, ghee are simply butter that has been cooked to remove any water and solids. Besides making the kitchen smell amazing, turning butter to clarified butter also gives the fat a higher smoke point (this just means you can cook with it a high temperatures) and lengthens the shelf life of the resulting fat.

Both clarified butter and ghee begin with melting over low heat. And they are both heated until the water evaporates and the milk solids settle and then the clear fat is poured off. Ghee is heated just a wee bit more until the milk solids are browned, giving the resulting fat a nutty flavor and aroma. The difference is subtle.

We use clarified butter for frying and sauteing it is excellent for cooking eggs, popping popcorn or cooking steak. Clarified butter also makes a mean hollandaise. Ghee is often associated with Middle Eastern and South Asian cooking so its very much at home in dal, curries or stir fries. Ghee is also amazing for making sauces or for a dip with crab or lobster.

Clarified Butter
Melt a pound of unsalted butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat and slowly cook until the bubbling ceases and the liquid turns clear, 30 to 40 minutes. Strain and cool, being sure to leave any solids in the bottom of the pan. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month.

Ghee
Melt a pound of unsalted butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat. As soon as it liquefies, turn the heat up to medium. When it finishes foaming, turn up the heat a little bit more and wait for it to foam a second time. Ghee is done when a second foam forms on top of butter, and the butter turns golden, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Brown milk solids will be in bottom of pan. Gently pour into heatproof container through fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Store in an airtight container, being sure to keep free from moisture. Ghee does not need refrigeration and will keep in airtight container for up to one month.

So this may come to you as a shock, but I’m not the only culinarian around here (here being Brain Food Industries my test kitchen) generating life-enhancing recipes, tips, and advice for American cooker-folk. In fact, my Director of Culinary Ops, Meghan Splawn, has been working behind my scenes for years. Every week she’s sharing her wisdom from our test kitchens nothing classified mind you, but she can cook up a storm so you might want to pay attention. 

23 Comments

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  1. 3
    Samer Abraham

    One month is laughable to me. My parents told me in Egypt they only had access to butter once a year. So they were forced to make clarified butter out of it because it has a much longer shelf (pre refrigeration) life. They used it for the remainder of the year and usually had some leftover when butter came available again. Again this was unrefrigerated clarified butter in the heat of Egypt and it lasted that long.

    • 4
      Samer Abraham

      Oh and I should add the milk solids were mixed into any cheese that was going bad and tossed in a jar. That’s called “mish” and it’s more or less the fermented kitchen sink of diary products.

  2. 5
    FH Stowe

    I agree that both clarified butter and ghee are wonderful to have on hand in the kitchen, but a cautionary note may be in order. I’ve made both for years and always stayed near by, stirring the bottom of the pot from time to time to dissipate water that accumulates there. This had always worked for me buy one day I had a near catastrophe that has made me more cautious. I had just peered into the butter pot and turned away to the sink when the butter exploded. A pound of butter hit the ceiling and walls — but, by luck, did not hit my face. (Many people who have melted butter in a microwave have produced a more contained explosion from the same cause.)

    I now stir more and never look down into the pot.

  3. 7
    Bob

    I’m curious about the 1 month expiration. Rendering fat for tallow or lard generally puts it into a preserved condition that is almost indefinite under cool conditions. Ghee is a stabilized fat from butter with origins in a hot climate. Seems that 1 month is a bit arbitrary.

  4. 9
    Nathalia

    Ghee is also largely used in Northeast Brazil where it’s known as “Bottle Butter” or in Portuguese “Manteiga de Garrafa”. It pairs great with sun dried meat and fried yucca!

    • 12
      Craigny53

      According to Julia Child’s “Mastering The Art of French Cooking”, ‘the residue may be stirred into soups and sauces to serve as an enrichment’. Nice to know, since I hate wasting anything in the kitchen. –C

  5. 15
    Belinda

    If I put the ghee in a canning jar with a new lid, I wonder if it would extend the shelf life, or would I need a water bath or a canner to save it properly ? I want to avoid making homemade Botox.

  6. 16
    Seren?

    would it be possible to make clarified butter in a crockpot without the lid on it as it would give more of a low even heat ? I don’t think it would work for ghee but just curious

    • 21
      G

      The straining step should eliminate the foam skimming part so long as its a close knit strain it wont effect the finished product I don’t think. I always thought the foam was just the water leaving the butter, all the other things in butter (the milk solids) fall to the bottom, leaving you with the pure beautiful fat in the middle. But I could be wrong. >_>

      • 22
        Vindhya M

        The foam subsides once the butter gets to the clarified form. No need to skim the foam. I make ghee every week as my family consume it everyday as part of our food. You may add a pod or two of Cardamom or one/two of Betel leaves which leaves which gives it a little flavor.

  7. 23
    Mike

    I’ve made ghee quite a few times, but when it foams, I had been skimming, the foam and “floaty stuff” and kept cooking it… should I just let the “floaty stuff” get cooked, and I’m assuming it will just fall to the bottom?
    I never knew about just turning up the heat a second time… thanks for another tip!

    Sometimes when I make ghee, I will pour off most of it, but in the remaining portion, I throw in a few crowns of cauliflower, let it “fry” a bit, then remove it. It adds, or creates some kind of pleasant taste in the ghee that I use when I’m frying cabbage and pepper sabdzis.

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