Ghee and clarified butter

Joined Nov 9, 2009
It is my understanding that these two are different
though both are "clarified" but to different degrees and are different?
I was told by someone that they are the same? is this true?
thanks :look:
Joined May 26, 2001
Larousse Gastronomique gives the procedure for clarifying butter as:
  1. Heat the butter gently until it has stopped bubbling and sizzling. By this stage, the water content has evaporated and a sediment forms in the base of the pan. Use a straining spoon to skim off any scum that forms on the surface.
  2. Pour or ladle the butter from the pan, leaving the sediment behind. The last of the butter can be strained through muslin (cheesecloth) if there is a significant amount left with the sediment.
Index - A Lexicon for the Indian Gourmet by Deepak Nirula defines ghee as "Clarified butter free of milk solids, with a nutty flavour."

So what, if anything, is the difference? From what I know, making ghee takes the clarification process a bit further, not just cooking out the water, but continuing to cook the butter until the milk solids in the bottom of the pan brown (but not burn) and the butter-oil takes on a deeper golden hue. The strained result can be stored at room temperature.

Removing all the water helps the keeping properties (no chance to mildew); removing the milk solids allows the clarified butter or ghee to be cooked at higher temperatures, where the solids would normally burn.

Hope this isn't TMI. :D
Joined Nov 9, 2009
this convo came up because I like to drizzle ghee on my popcorn with sea salt... yes I Have a death wish LOL
Joined Feb 13, 2008
There's too much overlap to make much of a distinction. It's like arguing about the distinction between "broth" and "light soup." It there is a difference it comes down to how individuals use language, rather than to cooking. And like most definitional discussions, it becomes pointless pretty quickly.

To the extent the milk solids are "toasted" in either, they are only very, very slightly toasted. Anything more results in something fairly obnoxious.

Within those limits, you can toast the solids in proto-clarified butter before clarifying, and it's still clarified butter. Similarly, you can not-toast them in ghee before clarifying, and it's still ghee.

As a practical matter, ghee is cheaper to buy from an Indian grocery than good butter from a non-ethnic supermarket and the clarification is already done. Just make sure you're buying fresh.

Otherwise, as the maiden said: "Alla time same same."

Use it in good health,
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