What is clarified butter?

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Clarified butter is a type of butter wherein the solid and liquid part is separated. The solid part or milk solids are separated from the oil and butterfat to make clarified butter.  The basic preparation involves heating or melting standard butter so that the milk solids will separate or skim off with the liquid butter fat.  The reason for the separation of the butter parts is the component density.  Most of the milk solids will sink to the bottom while the lighter parts will move to the top.  Some water will then evaporate in the melting process with the butter fat and oil remaining in the mixture but separated from the milk solids.

In terms of cooking, some people prefer clarified butter over standard butter preparation because of its higher smoke point.  This is especially true for some cooking techniques like sautéing or stir-frying.  In terms of storage, butter that has gone through the clarifying process will also last longer than standard butter.  This simply means that clarified butter should be chosen over other butter varieties when the intention is to use it over different dishes that may be prepared over an extended period of time.  In many parts of the world, the preparation of clarified butter may have slight differences in the process itself or even in the end-product.  In parts of South Asia for example, melted butter is allowed to stand for long until most of the water has evaporated and the remaining milk solids have caramelized.

Aside from the melting technique, there are other ways to prepare clarified butter.  Another popular home-based technique is through straining.  Using a cloth, one may choose to separate the milk solids from the liquid using a cloth.  In this process, butter is still melted but the manner of separating the milk solids and butter fat is made convenient for some by using a cloth.  For people who are quite in a hurry, the microwave oven may also be used in melting standard butter.  In this method, only a drinking glass or bowl is required in preparing clarified butter.

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