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Sauteing with Butter and oil.

Hi there, I've seen TV chefs sauteing with butter, and olive oil together. I reckon this has something to do with preventing the butter from burning, but I may be wrong. Can anyone shed some light on this?

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  1. Partly the high temp issue, but also because it tastes good! The best of both worlds.

    1. Standard olive oil has a higher smoke point than butter.
      So yes this does help prevent the butter from burning.
      This link on smoke points may be useful.


      1 Reply
      1. J. Kenji López-Alt from the Food Lab at seriouseats.com has a different take on this:


        "But what's the best medium to sear in? Butter, or oil? Some claim that a mixture of both is best, often using the excuse that butter alone has too low a smoke point—it begins to burn and turn black at temperature too low to properly sear meat in. Somehow, cutting the butter with a bit of oil is supposed to raise this smoke point. Unfortunately, that's not true. It's because when we say that "butter is burnt," we're not really talking about the butter as a whole—we're talking specifically about the milk proteins in butter. The little white specks you see when you melt it. It's these milk proteins that burn when you get them too hot, and believe me—they couldn't care less whether they're being cooked in butterfat or in oil. Either way, they burn."

        2 Replies
        1. re: bcc

          which is why some people cook with ghee.

        2. I ran into this when all the nutrition people were advocating abandoning butter, a couple of decades ago. If you used both, then you got the taste of butter, but he health benefits of olive oil.

          I am not fond of using either, because of the low smoke points of both.

          1. I just saw Steve Raichlen tell his viewers this yesterday (increasing the burning point of butter by adding oil). Total poppycock unless there is some magic I don't understand... you'll end up with less burned butter but it will still be burned!

            1 Reply
            1. re: e_bone

              There's a BIG difference in the smoking points of your basic 'table' butter and clarified butter. The milk solids in table butter will start to scorch at about 350F but clarified butter (milk solids have been removed) has a smoke point about 450F. That's right up there with some vegetable based oils.
              Try using clarified butter and a bit of good olive oil and keep the heat down.
              If you want the taste of milk solids in your food just don't have the heat too high. There's not many foods I can think of that benefit from being cooked at screaming high heat.

            2. When the temp of (whole, not clarified) butter reaches the burning point of the milk solids, said solids will burn. Doesn't make the slightest difference if its by itself or combined with other oils. The perceived "raising of the burning point" results from the fact that if you're combining butter with oil, by definition there's less butter to burn. Or, put another way, the butter doesn't know whether its hot oil or a hot pan that's making it burn.

              1. If you're just sauteing some stuff quickly and the heat is never really going to get up to those screaming hot temps in the first place - I would say it's more of a flavor thing, you may specifically want the fruity olive oil taste and the creamy butter flavor in the dish.

                For something like a steak, I've generally seen them start off with oil, cooking at the high temperature, then throwing some butter (and fresh garlic) in towards the end and basting the meat with it for a bit to finish it off. Then perhaps throw it in the oven until it gets to the desired doneness.

                1. IME, olive oil fries things crispier but doesn't match the taste of butter. Sounds like the best of both worlds.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: MickiYam

                    Frying in clarified butter/ghee results in the same crispiness as frying in oil.

                  2. ...because the chefs want to sound like they're displaying a new, fancy way of doing things

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: GutGrease

                      Possibly. On the other hand, the mixture of butter with olive oil is fairly standard in classic Italian recipes I have in books, from before anyone watched TV. So it is new and fancy only to some people.