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Jan 4, 2005 09:58 PM

Clarified butter or ghee

  • l

For those who use this on a consistent(or not!) basis to cook, is the flavor component similar to using regular unsalted butter. Is it better to do it myself or buy from the store?


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  1. j
    Jim Washburn

    Yes. Much better to do it yourself. Clarified butter is very easy. Ghee is a little more work, but there's no reason not to do it yourself.


    1. The clarified butter is not as flavorful as the regular unsalted butter.

      Clarified butter is butter with the milk solids removed. The purpose is to get rid of moisture in the butter. This can serve two purposes. It raises the smoke point so that you can sauté at higher temperatures without burning the fat. It's not as heat friendly as olive oil but the flavor can be more desirable sometimes. Lowering the moisture also helps when using butter in an emulsification such as a hollandaise.

      It's easy to make your own clarified butter. Place a few sticks of butter in a small saucepan and heat slowly. The butter will melt and separate into three layers. You want the middle one. Skim the milk solids floating on top (being high in flavor these milk solids are great on toast). Then pour the oily looking layer into a jar or Tupperware and refrigerate. I think it will keep for a month or so but I could be wrong. I always use mine up in a few weeks before I make more.


      1. Pick up a GLASS gravy skimmer. Makes it so much easier- just put it into the microwave on a low temp (I use 20%) until the butter has melted. Let it settle (should be obvious) and skim off the top layer, then the middle.

        To be honest, I usually combine the top two layers and use the lower layer as the oil for frying eggs, etc. I usually save the lower layer in the freezer vacuum packed until a scout camp and use it all up with biscuits, frying, etc at the scout camp. Also can be used as a great starting point for hot wings coating.

        1. my partner and i make ghee on a regular basis. i am not sure what the difference is b/w ghee and clarified butter, but we learned it from an indian cookbook so we call it ghee.

          we use it for indian cooking, mostly, but it is also great for hi-heat sauteeing of greens, or anything else where you want a butter's flavor but are using high heat. It has a wonderful caramelly flavor.

          Ghee keeps well in warmer/more humid climates, which is partially why it is extensively used in places like India and Ethiopia. If you make it carefully, it will keep for months in the fridge.

          Two notes/tips:
          --Be sure to use unsalted butter.
          --After you've put the ghee in a storage vessel, let it cool thoroughly before closing the vessel. If you close it too soon, condensation may occur (on the bottom, strangely enough) and cause mold. You can let it cool all the way to room temp. It won't suffer. In fact, in the winter we just leave our ghee out on the counter.

          We use the oven method: put a pound of butter in a pyrex bowl, turn the oven on to 300F, and let the butter melt in there for about an hour. After an hour it will be hot and sometimes will spurt little bubbles, so carefully remove it and let it cool for about 15 mins. Then skim off the crusty top. As everyone has explained, you want the middle. I skim off the top and eat it on bread, usually immediately--it's like power-butter. Then the middle stuff gets ladled into a glass jar. If you're very careful and do not disturb the liquid, you can get almost all of the clear stuff out with the ladle. The remaining clear stuff and the cloudy stuff on the bottom is OK for basic cooking (someone mentioned biscuits--great idea, i'll have to try it!), but we usually feed it to the chickens. They love it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: patrick

            "...condensation may occur (on the bottom, strangely enough)...."

            Water is denser than oil, so this makes sense.

          2. I've bumped this old topic because I see many references to ghee on Chowhound. Are posters using it interchangeably for clarified butter or is it a different item?

            12 Replies
            1. re: zackly

              They are very similar and can be used interchangeably but Ghee has a slightly toasted flavor from allowing the Solids to lightly caramelize while cooking the Butter. It will not make or break most dishes,it is a pretty subtle nuance.

              1. re: chefj

                So do you think when Chowhounders mention ghee they are actually talking about clarified butter?

                1. re: zackly

                  Probably, I differentiate because I use both but I think most folks use them interchangeably.

                  1. re: zackly

                    If they are talking about South Asian Food I would imagine they mean Ghee.
                    If it is a Western Preparation probably Clarified but Hounds are a diverse and unpredictable lot.

                  2. re: chefj

                    In India, I was taught to make ghee by starting w/ clarified butter, then allowing it to cook some more, to a very lightly browned/toasted stage. That was ghee.

                    1. re: pine time

                      Ya. That's real ghee but you must use unsalted butter to begin with.

                      1. re: Puffin3

                        Unsalted Clarified? What difference? All the Salt is left behind in the Clarification Process.

                        1. re: chefj

                          Noooo. The salt remains in the butter. The salt is not only in the whey.
                          Ghee is butter that has never had salt added to begin with so when you want to make some you must begin with a butter that does not contain salt. "Clarified butter is butter with almost all of its water and milk solids removed, leaving almost-pure butterfat. Clarified butter is made by heating butter to its melting point and then allowing it to cool; after settling, the remaining components separate by density. At the top, whey proteins form a skin which is removed, and the resulting butterfat is then poured off from the mixture of water and casein proteins that settle to the bottom.[13]

                          Ghee is clarified butter which is brought to higher temperatures of around 120 °C (250 °F) once the water had evaporated, allowing the milk solids to brown. This process flavors the ghee, and also produces antioxidants which help protect it longer from rancidity. Because of this, ghee can keep for six to eight months under normal conditions".

                          1. re: Puffin3

                            That is just not true. Salt is not soluble in Fat. Clarified Butter or Ghee made from Salted butter will give less of a yield but will not taste of salt.

                            1. re: chefj

                              Yes - the salt ends up with the milk solids - salt is not soluble in pure fat.

                              I do use unsalted butter because I like to eat the toasted milk solids afterwards, and the ones produced by salted butter are too salty.

                              1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                Unsalted Butter also gives you a better yield and takes less time to do since it has less Water.
                                I am not promoting using Salted Butter just trying to counter act the misinformation above.

                      2. re: pine time

                        Where did the Clarified Butter come from?