A Faster, Better Way to Clarify Butter

July  8, 2013

Every week, baking expert Alice Medrich will be going rogue on Food52 -- with shortcuts, hacks, and game-changing recipes.

Today: How to clarify butter faster, with less fuss and mess.

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Here’s an easy method for clarifying butter that yields more than the traditional saucepan method does and with less fuss. The butter is cut into several chunks and melted it in a narrow glass container in the microwave, without stirring. After it rises once or twice, it settles into three perfect layers.

I use full power in my 800-watt microwave: try medium power in a larger watt oven. In any case, keep watch. Cut the butter into 1 tablespoon-sized chunks (for even melting with minimal spitting) and put it in a heatproof jar or Pyrex measuring cup that is taller than it is a wide; a 1 cup Pyrex measure or similar size jar is perfect for 1 stick of butter. Choose a container tall enough so that the butter can rise without overflowing.  

Heat the butter until it is melted and rising: let it rise towards the top of the container, then stop it. If the butter is not separated almost perfectly with foam on top, clear yellow clarified butter in the middle, and a little watery liquid on the bottom, let it settle down again, and then microwave and let it rise once more (watching carefully). The second rise should give you perfectly separated layers!

Remove the butter from the oven and let it set undisturbed for a few minutes (or longer, but not long enough to re-solidify the butter). Tilt the container and spoon off and discard the layer of foam. Pour and/or spoon the clear clarified butter into another container, leaving the watery liquid behind. Clarified butter keeps indefinitely in the refrigerator in a covered container.


Alice's most recent book, Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts, doles out delicious dessert recipes that don't take hours of prep (a lot of them don't even require turning on the oven) -- everything from lattice-free linzer to one-bowl French chocolate torte.



See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Jdr
  • Stefan Joel Mitchell Sr.
    Stefan Joel Mitchell Sr.
  • Jeannine Doyle
    Jeannine Doyle
  • Jared Lyons
    Jared Lyons
  • Jan Angevine
    Jan Angevine
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).


Jdr July 6, 2019
I got hardly any foam on the top. Solids fell to the bottom. However, foam was scattered on top and almost non-existent. Does this not work with pure Irish butter?
Stefan J. March 14, 2019
Excellent recipe for trying to gain some weight fast💪🏽
Jeannine D. March 4, 2018
Shouldn’t you cover it with plastic wrap so it does explode all over your microwave?
Jared L. January 7, 2018
What the author fails to tell you is how easy it is to overheat the butter and just get an explosion of butter all over the inside of your microwave. You have to stop the microwave as soon as it looks like they separated and DO NOT try to heat it up again, if you’re uncertain that it has separated sufficiently. The instant the solids on the bottom start bubbling, you must stop, or it will explode.
Jan A. March 1, 2017
Why clarify?
Glenn M. July 1, 2016
Well, it did a good job of coating the inside of my microwave with hot liquid butter. BOOM! And, that was on half-power.
Shawn June 21, 2016
Thanks I just got a glass pyrex container to try this hoping it will be easier to clarify butter for popcorn. I don't use the microwave for cooking most things (bad texture) but it's sometimes useful for things like this!,
rbrock1225 February 17, 2016
It also seems that doing this in a microwave-okay fat separator would allow you skim the top layer, then decant the bottom layer easily. Much easier than trying to scoop out the middle layer. I'm really fond of the Oxo separator which has the plug for the spout which keeps fluid from being driven up the spout.
Chris December 25, 2015
I also prefer not to use the nuker for anything i eat but it can be useful for small things just used this technique for lbster dinner worked like a charm
BurgeoningBaker January 30, 2014
A video would really help these types of articles.
Maggie July 9, 2013
Wow! Thank you for sharing this. Good tip.
walkie74 July 9, 2013
I am *so* trying this.
Csilla B. July 8, 2013
I love ghee, but I prefer not to use the microwave for anything I eat.
Helens July 14, 2013