Food Science: How Does Browning Butter Change It’s Flavour?
Image Credit: The Practical Kitchen

The beurre noisette – French for brown butter, has been one of the cutting-edge culinary innovations that has changed the way people cook and bake. Melting regular butter over low to medium heat and allowing it to foam, enables the milk solids to separate and settle at the bottom of the pan. As the butter continues to cook, the milk solids gradually turn golden and eventually brown, giving the butter a rich, nutty aroma and flavour.

The process of browning butter that is meant to intensify its flavour profile compared to regular melted butter, brings out complex, caramel-like notes. Often used as a flavour foundation for sauces, baked confections and to finish off meats and fish, the water content evaporates, concentrating the flavour of the fat and milk solids. Hence, the nutty, rich flavour of brown butter pairs excellently with both, sweet and savoury dishes, elevating a wide range of recipes. New flavour compounds are created when constant heat is applied, as a result of the Maillard reaction, resulting in a more complex and aromatic ingredient that adds depth to various dishes.

This complex chemical reaction occurs between amino acids from the milk solids in butter and reduction of sugars, when exposed to heat. As the butter melts and heats up, the proteins and sugars react and undergo a series of transformations – thus producing a range of flavourful compounds and pigments, leading to the browning and development of new aromas and tastes. In addition to this, milk solids in butter also undergo caramelization when the sugars break down under heat, undergoing thermal decomposition to form new compounds. What this does is contribute to the brown colour and add sweet flavours to the butter.

Also Read: 

8 Innovative Compound Butters For Flavour-Packed Meal Experiences   

Like most other types of foods, butter also contains a certain percentage of moisture, along with its fat content. Heating this dairy-based fat causes the water to evaporate, increasing the temperature of the butter, allowing the Maillard reaction and caramelization to take place more efficiently. The combination of these chemical reactions results in the transformation of butter from its original state to an ingredient that is deep in flavour and complex in the way it lends itself to dishes. Browning butter not only alters the molecular structure of the butter, but also creates new compounds that impart the characteristic taste and aroma associated with brown butter.