Chef Tom ‘Splains Brown Butter

Brown Butter is the magic flavor bomb no one seems to appreciate. Until they taste it. Nothing matches the unbelievably rich, caramel, nutty flavor of browned butter. Elevate a batch of chocolate chip cookies, or enrich a sauce for pasta.

Brown butter is regular butter that has been “browned.” What you are doing is cooking the butter slightly past its melting point, just long enough to toast the milk solids in the butter. By doing this, you’re creating butter magic! It releases a nutty flavor in the butter that adds an extra layer when you replace regular butter in recipes.

Brown Butter

How to Make Brown Butter

Servings: 8

(excerpted from SimplyRecipes)

It’s super easy to make brown butter! All you need is a pan, some butter and a tool for stirring the butter as you brown it. I recommend using a silicone whisk for the best results, but a wooden or regular spoon will work just as well. You just need to be able to stir the milk solids while the butter is cooking, so that they brown evenly and not turn black and burnt.

The cooking time will depend on how much butter you’re using, the amount of heat (I recommend melting over medium heat), and the surface area of your pot or pan. Using a sturdy, thick pan ensures even heating for the best results. If you want your butter to melt faster, cut it first before adding it to your pan.

This method calls for browning one stick of butter. Less butter will brown more quickly; more butter will take longer.


1 stick (8 tablespoons, 113g) unsalted butter


Melt the butter:

Heat a thick-bottomed skillet on medium heat. Add the butter (if you slice it, it will melt more evenly) whisking frequently. Continue to cook the butter.

Watch for brown specs, smell the nutty aroma:

Once melted the butter will foam up a bit, then subside. Watch carefully as lightly browned specks begin to form at the bottom of the pan. Smell the butter; it should have a nutty aroma.

Remove from heat:

Pour into a bowl to stop the butter from cooking further and perhaps burning.

It’s pretty easy to overcook browned butter and go from brown to burnt. If the butter starts to blacken, I suggest dumping it and starting over (something I’ve had to do on occasion).

If you want to make sage brown butter sauce, add some fresh sage leaves to the butter once it has melted. Allow the butter to brown and remove from the heat.

Use browned butter immediately or store covered in the refrigerator for future use.

Mashed Potatoes with Brown Butter, Goat Cheese, and Sage

Brown Butter Mashers

4 servings


1 1/2 pounds yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered

1 teaspoon salt

3 Tbsp butter

1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage

4 ounces goat cheese

3 Tbsp milk


Boil the potatoes: Place the potatoes and salt in a pot and fill the pot with cold water until the potatoes are covered.

Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until a fork easily pierces the potatoes.

Drain the water from the potatoes.

Brown the butter: Place the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. (Use a stainless steel saucepan so you can see the butter browning.) Let the butter melt and continue to watch it as it cooks. The butter will foam for a bit and then calm down.

After a few minutes, flecks of brown will appear at the bottom of the pan. When you see this, and the melted butter takes on a nutty aroma, take it off the heat.

Add sage and pour over potatoes:

Add the chopped sage to the butter (it may cause some foaming). Pour over the potatoes.

Add the goat cheese and milk and mash the potatoes with a potato masher until smooth and all ingredients are well incorporated. Salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

Browned Butter Ravioli


4 Servings

Browned butter adds toasted and nutty flavors to this cheese-filled ravioli dish. 

1 (25-ounce) package refrigerated or frozen cheese ravioli

¼ cup butter

12 fresh sage leaves

Shredded Parmesan cheese, as desired

Cook ravioli in salted water according to package directions. Drain; set aside.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a 12-inch sauté pan. Cook over medium-high heat, watching closely, 3-5 minutes or until butter foams and just starts to turn a delicate golden color. Remove from heat.

Stir in sage leaves. Gently stir in cooked ravioli until well coated. Sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese, as desired.

Seared Scallops with Brown Butter Caper Sauce

Seared Scallops

4 servings

6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or canola oil

1 pound sea scallops (about a dozen)*

3/4 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons capers, drained

2 teaspoons lemon zest

*Sea scallops are the large scallops (about 1 1/2 inches wide), different from their much smaller cousins, bay scallops.

Brown the butter: Cut up the butter into pieces (a tablespoon each or so) and place in a stainless steel saucepan. Melt the butter on medium heat. Allow the butter to foam up and recede. Watch carefully. After a few minutes, the milk solids will form and sink to the bottom. Once the milk solids begin to turn caramel-colored brown, the butter will have a lovely nutty aroma.

Remove from heat and pour the browned butter into a separate bowl to stop the cooking. (Pay attention! If you wait too long, you’ll have blackened butter, not browned butter.) Set aside.

Remove the “foot” of the scallop from each scallop. (The foot is a small tough piece of meat that attaches the scallop to the shell.) Pat dry the scallops.

Sear the scallops on both sides on high heat:

Heat the oil in a cast iron pan or hard-anodized aluminum sauté pan on high heat.

When the oil is shimmery hot, pat dry the scallops again and carefully place them in the pan, flat side down. You may need to work in batches so you don’t crowd the pan. Once you’ve placed the scallops in the pan, do not move them. Allow them to sear.

Once you can see that the edges of the scallops touching the pan have browned, use tongs to turn the scallops over and sear the other side. Depending on the size of the scallops and the heat of your burner, this should take 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Once both sides are browned, remove the scallops to a warm plate, and turn off the burner.

Deglaze pan with white wine:

Pour out the remaining oil from the pan, leaving any browned bits in the pan. Add the white wine to the pan and return the pan to the burner on high heat. Let the wine boil and reduce until you have 2 tablespoons of liquid left in the pan.

Add capers, lemon zest, brown butter:

Then turn off the heat, add the capers, lemon zest, and brown butter to the pan. Swirl to combine.

Serve scallops with sauce:

Place scallops on serving plates and pour sauce over them. Serve immediately.


Chef Tom is currently transitioning from Personal Chef to Private Chef. He also teaches cooking classes, caters small parties and leads overseas culinary tours. His specialty for the last twelve years has been cooking for people with food allergies and sensitivities. His motto is “Food should give you pleasure, not pressure.”

Check him out at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: