What Is Browned Butter? (And What You Should Make With It)

It's good in almost anything.

We all know that butter is the key to lots of iconic Southern dishes, from buttermilk biscuits, to flaky hand pies, to rich pound cakes, to skillet corn. Unlike shortening and oil, butter adds flavor as well as fat to sweet and savory recipes. (It can also help season food too, if you're using salted butter.)

Butter Pecan Layer Cake with Browned Butter Frosting

Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Mary Clayton Carl; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

There's no doubt that butter is delicious as-is, but you can give it a deeper, more complex flavor by simply cooking it down it in a saucepan or skillet. Think of browned butter as the sultry, sophisticated cousin of your regular old stick of butter. You can substitute it in place for regular butter, whether your recipe calls for it to be melted or chilled. Browned butter can add a subtle nutty flavor to baked goods (like chocolate chip cookies) and pan sauces, it makes roasted vegetables taste decadent and rich, and it is excellent in a pie crust or cake frosting.

If you've never browned butter before, the process is simple and only requires you to keep a close watch as it cooks. Here's how to make it: Place the butter in a saucepan or skillet over low heat. Allow the butter to melt completely. You will notice it start to bubble and foam; that is water evaporating, which concentrates the flavor of the butter. As it bubbles away, the liquid will start to brown and tiny flecks will appear. Those are milk solids, which will also start to brown and sink to the bottom of the pan. Swirl the pan occasionally and keep a close watch as it continues to darken. When the butter is a deep golden brown, take the pan off of the heat and pour the browned butter into a bowl or glass measuring cup. It should smell toasty and nutty. Scrape the pan with a spatula to release all of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Use browned butter as you would regular butter. If the recipe calls for it to be chilled, simply place it in the freezer and freeze until it is solid.

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