Better Brown Butter

By Cook's Illustrated Published September 2016

We've got a new method for browning butter which ensures that every last bit of the flavorful solids leaves the pan.

Brown butter—butter cooked until the solid milk proteins color—adds a deep, nutty flavor to everything from savory sauces to our Classic Chewy Oatmeal Cookies (see related content). We’ve always browned butter by melting it in a skillet (a traditional one to easily monitor browning), swirling it until the solids brown, and then pouring it into a heatproof bowl, using a spatula to attempt to scrape out the milk protein solids that cling to the skillet. But this was an imperfect method, as a lot of the solids were inevitably left behind. Though the milk proteins make up only 2 percent of butter’s mass, they are mainly responsible for browned butter’s nutty flavor, and we wondered if there was a better way. We melted butter in a skillet until the sputtering subsided and then stirred and scraped constantly until the solids browned so that none stuck to the pan. When we compared pasta dressed with stirred-and-scraped brown butter with non-stirred, tasters unanimously preferred the pasta tossed with the stirred batch, calling it “nuttier” and “toastier.” From now on, we’ll be stirring butter as it browns to ensure that every last bit of the flavorful solids leaves the pan.