Cooking terms can sometimes get a little jumbled on the Internet, and then innocently inserted into online recipes. Before you know it, something like chicken broth and chicken stock, for example, become generally accepted as interchangeable terms in everyday cooking, despite having very different culinary definitions.
Ghee and clarified butter also share this workalike wordsmithing. When it comes to everyday cooking, they kind of, basically, sort of mean the same thing. Ghee is clarified butter, but clarified butter is not ghee. Here’s the difference:
Ghee and clarified butter start out the same: butter, preferably from grass-fed (never grain-fed) sources, is gently heated in a stainless saucepan over low heat until the milk solids (the white foamy parts) sink to the bottom of the pan, leaving the butter fat at the top. This butter fat, which is the clarified butter, is poured into a separate container, leaving the milk solids behind, and used as a stable cooking fat.
Ghee, however, is left to cook just a little longer, allowing the butter to reach about 250 degrees F, at which point the milk solids become browned and toasted, creating a nutty, more complex, deeper flavor to the clarified butter. Ghee is also often made with goat’s milk butter rather than cow’s milk, and preferred in Ayurvedic cooking.
Hold on. What is a “stable” cooking fat?
Labeling a fat as being “stable,” refers to how quickly or easily a type of fat will oxidize and turn rancid when exposed to light, heat, and oxygen. Because butter fat is a saturated fat, meaning on a molecular level it has all of its hydrogen atom slots filled (saturated), it’s less vulnerable to oxidation when exposed to high heat, unlike monounsaturated (olive, canola) and polyunsaturated fats (soy, corn).
Oxidized fats cause inflammation in the body, and chronic inflammation leads to disease, so it’s important to eliminate sources of oxidized fats in your diet whenever and wherever possible. Replacing highly unstable, industrial cooking oils like soybean and vegetable oil, corn oil, canola oil, safflower oil, and peanut oil, with ghee, clarified butter, and even coconut oil, is a great place to start.
- 1 pound grass-fed, unsalted butter
- In a small stainless saucepan heat butter over low heat until melted, about 4 to 6 minutes. Do not simmer or boil. Remove pan from heat, let stand 30 minutes to allow milk solids to sink to bottom of pan.
- Slowly pour the top butter fat into a glass container; stop pouring when white milk solids begin to surface.
- Discard milk solids. Keep refrigerated, covered, up to 14 days.
- In a small stainless saucepan heat butter over low heat until melted, about 4 to 6 minutes. Swirl pan, continue to cook on low heat until butter solids begins to chestnut brown, about 12 minutes more. Remove pan from heat, let stand 30 minutes to allow browned milk solids to sink to bottom of pan.
- Slowly pour the top butter fat into a glass container; stop pouring when browned milk solids begin to surface.
- Discard browned milk solids. Keep refrigerated, covered, up to 14 days.
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