What is this mystery ingredient that will make your food sing?


It's buerre noisette, or brown butter, and you need to make some right now

Most people know that chefs love butter. And we do! But we might love this not-so-secret ingredient even more. Brown butter is tasty year round but it seems to softly scream fall. We could write poetic odes to its toasty amber color, its irresistible scent of toasty, nutty, buttery goodness, its ability to elevate the simple to sublime. Maybe you can tell we’re big fans. 

Brown butter takes up a regular spot on our refrigerator shelf at home to add flavor and depth to everything from grilled cheese to plain pasta to a quick drizzle over roasted vegetables. We also love brown butter because it’s pretty quick and easy to make. All you need is some unsalted butter, a light colored pan, loving attention, a tiny bit of nerve, and a heating element.

This is the kind of recipe we use at home - no real measurements, just guidelines and no-fuss ingredients. 

You’ll need:

  • 2 T to a full stick of unsalted butter
    Depending on how much you want to make. Less than 2 T doesn’t really work well, and more than a full stick at a time can be more difficult because it takes more time and attention.
  • A light colored pan
    You need to be able to see the change in color easily, so while we love cast iron it’s not the pan for brown butter.

Place the unsalted butter in a cold pan over medium heat. Stir it constantly to make sure the butter melts evenly before it begins to brown. If you opt to go whole hog and brown a stick or more, we suggest cutting the butter into small chunks before you melt it.

Once it’s all melted, the butter will start to foam and froth and might splutter a little as the water evaporates out of the fat. While you may be tempted to check your email or make a cup of tea at this point, don’t! Stay there with your butter, stirring and scraping the pan constantly. Watch it closely as it changes color over the next few minutes. If you listen carefully, the crackling and spluttering will start to quiet - that means it’s ready.

You may need to adjust the heat to prevent it from burning (lower) or to get it to brown (higher). 

This is where you need to hold your nerve as you watch the butter closely as it changes color. You’re probably going to need to leave it on the burner a little longer than feels totally comfortable, but trust us, it’s worth it. 

You want your butter tor turn a dark honey, cinnamon tone and with small darker particles at the bottom of the pan. It will also start to smell hazelnutty, thus the noisette (hazelnut in French) in beurre noisette.

As soon as it reaches this stage, pull it off the heat and transfer all the contents of your pan intoheat-proof container. That’s it, you’re done. You can drizzle it right there over some pasta or roasted vegetables. Put what you have left (if any) into the refrigerator until it solidifies and you can then grab what you need whenever. 

A note on straining: We like the little dark bits that collect at the bottom and feel they add more flavor, so we keep them in. Plus, when we cook at home we want as simple as possible. If you don’t like them, strain them out using a very fine strainer or cheesecloth.

Saveur has a great how-to video here if you find watching easier than reading.


This photo from Sweet Hope Cookies is a great illustration of the different stages of melted butter, and what color you want to aim for to create what we’re betting will be a mainstay in your kitchen.

You can use brown butter in just about any recipe that calls for butter, including cookies (just make sure you’re using cooled and solidified brown butter) or sauces. We love sautéing kale with it, drizzling it over pasta and tossing with nutty Parmiagiano Reggiano, basting eggs with it, and spreading it over toast. If you need more inspiration, check out Fine Cooking’s seemingly endless list of recipes here

Let us know if you try making brown butter at home and what you do with it. Share it on Facebook.

Tabitha Steager

Tabitha Steager Communications, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia v8k2p7