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Jun 9, 2003 08:40 PM

adding oil to butter to help prevent burning - why?

  • m

Can someone explain to me why adding oil to butter is supposed to help prevent butter from burning? I understand that butter burns at a lower temperature than oil, but what I don't get is why adding the oil is somehow supposed to raise the temperature at which the butter will burn. It seems to me that the butter will still burn, but now it is just mixed in with oil. Can anyone tell me? Thanks in advance -

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  1. The explanation I've always heard is that the melted butter floats on top of the oil, so it doesn't burn. I haven't had a lot of luck with it, myself. Sometimes I can still burn it....

    1. I think it has something to do with chemical make up of each product. Butter is a staurated fat so it has more hydrogen molecules and double bonds holding things together, which is what helps to keep it in the solid state. Oil has fewer hydrogen molecules and very few double bonds. Heat alters the chemical composition of butter, i.e. it becomes liquid. I would imagine that when oil is added, there is some chemical recomposition that takes place that slows down the burning process.

      Where's Alton Brown when you really need him............

      1 Reply
      1. re: Gayla

        I think you're on the right track -- but one correction: saturated fats (like those in butter) have fewer/no double bonds and this allows the long fat molecules to stack up nicely and give a fat which is more solid at room temperature, while unsaturated fats have more double bonds and fewer hydrogen atoms -- think of this as giving them bends which make it more difficult for the molecules to arrange themselves neatly, and as a result, the unsaturated fats are generally liquids at room temperature.
        However, I don't have enough food chemistry schooling to answer the originally posed question. Though the other poster who mentions making clarified butter (*OM*) suggests that it's actually the milk fats (?) in butter which scorch easily and that diluting the butter with oil just helps by lowering the concentration of these.

      2. why bother. just use clarified butter. i find that i use less clarified then i use oil and for some reason it seems to work even better than any oil.

        clarified butter is expensive, but i've found it at trader joes recently for less than 4 bucks. it's shelf stable and seems to last me forever. there's nothing like eggs, french toast, or grilled cheese fried in clarified butter.


        4 Replies
        1. re: davidt

          There is also the option of ghee... I always have a jar on hand.

          1. re: Karl S.

            Or simply melt down butter, skim any stuff from the top, and once fully melted, pour off the yellow butter from the top. The milk solids that are left behind can be used over cooked vegetables for flavor if you like.

            1. re: Karl S.
              JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

              Karl, I think that ghee *is* clarified butter. That's certainly how it looks from the jar we have in our fridge.

              1. re: JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

                It is clarified butter than is toasted a bit further, though not exactly beurre noisette, as it were.

          2. It all has to do with flashpoints, or the temperature at which oil (or butter) will smoke and burn. Olive oil has a higher flashpoint than butter, so if you add some of it to butter, you will raise the flashpoint of the mixture higher than plain butter would be. I've heard that the highest flashpoint temperature of all cooking oils is grapeseed oil. I did a search and found one site that put its flashpoint temp. at over 400 degrees F.

            1. you got it backwards you add butter to oil for it not to burn. like take 2 pans put oil in one and oil in the other with butter then put a hamburger in each one. the pan with jus oil will burn (seer) the hamburger and the one with butter will not