Ghee Whiz!


Hey you. Yeah, you.
You’re still cooking with olive oil, aren’t you? Yup. Thought so.
I am sure you’ve heard the news that this is a bad idea, but you’re not sure why so you just keep doing it. Sounds familiar. Sounds like me. For years I thought I was doing myself a huge favour by switching from butter to olive oil, as my diet moved from a standard diet to an organic, plant-based, whole foods diet, but it turns out I was a little mislead.

First off, let me explain why cooking with olive oil, and eating other heated oils can be to our detriment.
There are many, many different kinds of fats, some of which are more delicate, or less “stable” than others, meaning that they will go off more easily. The three factors that cause fats to spoil are:
– heat
– light
– oxygen
No matter how stable a fat is, it will always in the end, succumb to one or more of these factors and putrefy. Unless we’re talking about margarine, but who would ever eat that anyway? Tee hee.

Now we can talk about extra virgin olive oil, which is a fairly delicate fat. It has a low “smoke point”, which means that it will begin to burn at a relatively low temperature. As soon as any fat reaches its smoke point, it begins to break down and create free radicals – those horrendous, carcinogenic, unstable molecules that damage cells and cell membranes, and are associated with the development of conditions like atherosclerosis and cancer. You thought I was kidding around?!

Extra virgin olive oil’s low smoke point (320ºF) means that is not suitable for stir-frying, sautéing, or any other high-heat cooking. Pour it all over your salads for sure, but stop using it to cook today. Seriously. There are other grades of olive oil (virgin, pure, pomace, light, refined) that are of lesser nutritional value that can be used for higher heat cooking because they have a lower concentration of fragile nutritive components. However, most people have one type of olive oil in their pantry, and it’s of the extra virgin pursuassion because that is the one we are “supposed” to buy. Am I right?

Okay, enough with the doom and gloom! I have a great solution! It’s called ghee, or clarified butter, and it’s been around for, oh, 5000 years.
Ghee has been used in Indian Ayurvedic cooking for centuries, not only as a totally delicious food, but as an aid for digestion, ulcers, constipation, and the promotion of healthy eyes and skin. It is used in Indian beauty creams to help soften skin, and as a topical for the treatment of burns and blisters, which really works! I burned myself on the oven at work and put some ghee on it a few hours later. It healed miraculously quickly.

Lovin’ me some fat
Ghee is essentially clarified butter, made by heating regular butter until the proteins (casein) and sugars (lactose) separate from the pure butterfat. Simple.
Depending on the source of the butter used, ghee can be very high in antioxidants, in additions to helping the body absorb vitamins and minerals from other foods, namely vitamins A, D, E, and K.

The reason ghee is considered one of the best oils for baking, sautéing and deep-frying is due to its high smoke point (up to 480ºF). Butter burns at a lower temperature because of the presence of casein and lactose. Once removed, butterfat’s smoke point increases substantially. The other benefit of this is that people who are allergic to dairy products, or have casein or lactose intolerance can often tolerate ghee. Groovy.

Ghee has a very long shelf life because of its low moisture content. You do not need to refrigerate it for 2-3 months if you keep it in an airtight container. This makes it ideal for traveling or camping (awesome). When kept in refrigerator, ghee can last up to a year.

Delicious, Liquid Gold
I guess I could go on forever about all the health benefits, long formidable, history, or how easy it is to make ghee, but the part I like best? IT TASTES INCREDIBLE. Think of that warm, nutty taste in a shortbread cookie, or a flaky croissant. Ghee is similar to butter, but you will be pleasantly surprised that it is even richer-tasting, and dare I say…cheesy? Oh you heard me. It’s crazy delicious. Spread a little on toast (guh) or drizzle it on steamed veggies, or cook with it! It’s totally safe for those of you who like a very hot pan when stir-frying, or for those that forget that you turned the element on full blast and left the kitchen to go write an email. Oops.

You can find ghee at most health food stores, but making it yourself at home is about as easy as boiling water. Plus, when you make it yourself, you can choose the quality of the butter; remember that organic, grass-fed cows are the healthiest and make the tastiest ghee.



Ghee

Ingredietns:
Organic, unsalted butter (this is important!) – I use 500g at a time (approx. 4 sticks).

Directions:
1. Heat the unsalted butter in a heavy-duty saucepan over low-medium heat without a lid until it’s melted. Let simmer gently until the foam rises to the top of the melted butter. The butter will make lots of spluttering sounds and perhaps splatter a bit, so be careful.
2. Over the next 20-30 minutes (depending on the water content of your butter), watch the butter carefully as 3 layers develop: a foamy top layer, a liquid butterfat layer, a milk solids bottom layer. You can remove the foamy top layer with a spoon if you like, which helps to see trough to the bottom, but this is optional – it will be strained out in the end anyway.
3. Once the butter stops spluttering, and no more foam seems to be rising to the surface, check to see if the bottom layer has turned a golden brown colour and there is an incredible aroma of freshly baked croissants in your kitchen. If so, the ghee is ready and must be removed from the heat immediately or it will burn.
4. Set a few layers of cheesecloth or gauze over a heatproof container, such a canning jar. Carefully pour the warm liquid butter through the cheesecloth into the container, leaving behind any solids from the bottom of the pan. Let sit at room temperature to cool and solidify before placing an air-tight lid on the container. Store in the fridge for 1 year or, out of the fridge for 2-3 months.

Now, you’re probably wondering why the heck I have written many of my recipes for stir-frying or roasting with olive oil. Yup, good question. I guess part of me just wanted to encourage everyone to stop using Pam cooking spray, lard, and vegetable oil, and I wasn’t sure how to tackle the enormous subject of cooking fat. Now, I will firmly stand by my ghee for future recipes and you will know what I am talking about because you’ll have a jar of its golden goodness on your counter top too. Do we have a deal? Ghee whiz, I hope so.

OKAY! Question and answer time it is! I had a feeling that this would happen 🙂
#1 – I PROMISE to write a full article on vegetable-source cooking fats at some point in the very near future. This article was not meant to be about that. It was about ghee.
In the meantime if you would like to cook with a vegetable-source fat, I would recommend coconut oil. I will elaborate on that in another post.

#2 – Yes, ghee is better than cooking with butter because butter burns at a lower temperature than ghee. Please refer to paragraph #2 in the section called “Lovin’ me some fat”.

Copyright 2012 My New Roots at mynewroots.blogspot.com

90 comments

  1. jennifer

    Hi Sarah, Just want to say that I have been loving your sight since the beginning. It was like a gift finding you. I look forward to each new post, your writing is so honest and true and your photos are inspiring. You are what I look for in a good friend. You challenge me to go deeper and to ask questions, and of course to experiment. I have made ghee a long time ago, and wanted to try it again. I made it last night and it looked just like yours in the photo, but now that it is cooled it is cloudy and grainy. Do you think that is because I didn’t cook it long enough? Or does it just do this. I have never made it in such large batches to keep. I used to make it in small batches for hollandaise, eek, back in the day working at fishing lodges. I will keep researching! Thank you for all of your dedication to all that you do here. Amazing!

    • jennifer

      I just went over to my friend Heidi Fink’s page, (amazing Indian chef in Victoria) and I see from her photos that it does look creamy and grainy after it’s cooled. Sorry to bug you, I should have looked around first. I know you are a busy lady!

  2. dominika

    Just made it ! It was lounge, about 45 min, but its smells juste wonderfull. It makes me thinking about beurre caramel salé flavor. I will use it to the very first time today do make a roasted pumpkin.
    Thank you for your blog and your book Sarah !

  3. Anna

    Very interesting! Do you think that a coffee filter will work as a cheesecloth? Do you recycle glass jars from the food store? Thanks you!

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  5. Alex

    Hey there, I enjoyed the article. Your enthusiasm is catching. So I have recently switched to frying my eggs in ghee as opposed to olive oil and am finding that the ghee is smoking before my egg is cooked (over-medium) on a high heat. I have no clue how to judge a quality ghee except by reading the ingredients; is this the problem? FYI -I have been a paramedic for a long time serving a very diverse community, please be careful with the burn remedies. My experience is that it can lead to scarring and infection and unfortunately, people apply advice in the most absurd ways. I love me some kale and eggs in the morn!

  6. Nelleke

    I just bought your book and was making the ghee. And then I was making the blondies as well.. (I know..) My dates where kind of hard, so the ‘dough’ wasn’t sticky at all. Then I used a little ghee to make it more sticky, result? I can’t stay away from the freezer because it’s too delicious.. This combination is heaven!

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  10. Jennifer

    Hi Sarah!
    I just bought your cookbook – it’s lovely and I’m so excited to try all the recipes! I have multiple sclerosis and have been on a mission to eat more healthfully since my diagnosis a few years back. Your recipes have been part of that process. I have to eat a low saturated fat diet and the coconut oil, and coconut trend in general, is everywhere! I realize the health benefits, but my situation, and many others with MS, is unique: a low saturated fat diet is strongly advised. Can you recommend a lower saturated fat alternative? I’m sure there are a couple based on the type of cooking you’re doing.
    Thank you!

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  14. Amy

    Hi Sarah,
    My ghee always comes out dark brown. Could it vary with different butters? I live in Eastern France and use unpasturized, unsalted, local butter.

    It doesn’t smell burnt, just browned, like croissants getting golden brown.

    Thank you for your wonderful recipes!

    Amy

  15. Rebecca

    Hi there,

    first of all – THANK YOU for your amazing work. Your banana ice cream has made the summer heat bearable. And – in fact – enjoyable.

    I want to go ahead and give Ghee a try…
    Any recommendations what sort of cloth to use to strain it? Texture-wise?
    Not sure where I could get Cheesecloth…

    Thanks for your help!
    All the best from Vienna (Austria),
    Rebecca

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  18. Teresa

    I haven’t gone all the way to “ghee”, but found making clarified butter was very easy to make in the microwave. I just melted it slowly in a jar until I saw all three layers. Removal of the middle layer of clarified was very easy with a turkey baster. Love to fry my eggs in this!

  19. Rolland

    I’ve been making my own clarified butter for a couple of years now. I use it for deep-frying several things. My wife, mother and I really like the taste of the fried foods with it. I have not tried it cold on toast or rolls or anything else, as I’ve only used it for frying, and BOY can it get really, really HOT! I did get it to its smoking point a couple of times, so I now know it must have been about 500 degrees or more!

    Glad to know it has a very LONG shelf life. Now I won’t throw it out if it sets out overnight on the stove.

  20. Susan

    P.S. Hi, the two ‘Susans’ above are not the same person….Sorry, I should have included my last name. My post was about olive oil and has the time of 5:05 p.m. I am SusanS.

  21. Susan

    Olive oil has been around since “the beginning” and was used for everything from cooking to healing…and it still works! Different olive oils have a different heat point. Coconut oil has the highest (if you can stand the taste of coconut!) Heat point shouldn’t be an issue if one is following a health diet because that limits, if not eliminates totally, frying foods.

  22. Susan

    Thank you so much for this information! Wish I had discovered your site a couple of years ago, but better late than never 🙂 I’ll be making Ghee this weekend. I got back to intentionally using “better”, healthier fats in my diet, so I’m excited about using this instead of canola or olive oil. Plus, I picked up your Life-Changing Loaf of Bread recipe from a Yahoo Food article this morning…absolutely best looking bread I’ve seen in a long time! So, I’ll be baking that very soon. Again, thank you for the healthy tips and info on your site. I’m an email subscriber now!

  23. Adam

    Thank you for this. The only other thing I would have liked to seen in this article would be a picture of the jar from the side immediately after being poured from the pan so that I could compare clarity so I have a better idea about my timing.

    Other than that, super helpful article that made this process so simple.

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  26. Sadie

    Hi Sarah, Thankyou for your wonderful recipes and ideas! I was wondering if you know if Hemp Oil is safe to cook with, or is it very similar in structure to Olive Oil in terms of the low smoke point?
    Many thanks,
    Sadie

  27. Michele

    I find it hard to believe that ghee would be recommended for anyone with a casein or lactose allergy or more than a mild sensitivity. Straining the butterfat is not going to eliminate all the particles, so if you have a reaction to butter, you will likely still have a reaction to ghee (most people with lactose intolerance can manage butter in moderation anyway, but don’t try this if, like me, you are completely intolerant!). Otherwise, clarified butter is great to cook with, adding a nutty taste to baking and avoiding the risk of burnt fat in frying. I keep a saucier of garlic and herb-laced clarified butter on the stove to use for vegetables and garlic bread for my (non-lactose intolerant, non-celiac) family.

    I’m not sure what the anger at deep-frying is, apart from the mess, if you are willing to saute with ghee. Deep-frying occurs at a lower smoke point than pan frying, thus the fat is degraded less, and, if done properly, will not be absorbed beyond the crisp coating or skin. The problem tends to be with what people deep-fry (skip the Twinkie!) or how (don’t lower the temp by overloading the fryer), but a tempura broccoli is no less healthful that a fried broccoli topped with breadcrumbs…

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  29. Caitlyn

    Okay. I just bought ghee and oddly feel like I did something naughty, ha. I know it is really rather good and beneficial (that is why I bought it), I think it is the psychological thing knowing it came from butter and from cow’s milk (which I do not consume), getting passed/needing to get passed that factor (since it is different from just consuming butter) it tastes amazing! I can’t wait to try making my own and see the difference. This brand though is supposed to treat their cow’s well etc/.

    And, get this, I just saw Goat’s butter. I did not buy it because I do not eat butter, but it’s goat’s; crazy right? I figured one can make their own goat butter but I have never seen it packaged.

    Have a wonderful day.

  30. Jules

    Woo hoo! I just made ghee! So proud. Thank you Sarah, your site and all it’s wonderful contents are changing my life and that of my family’s too!

    • Shelli

      It’s not “healthy” it’s just a better choice for using to cook with because of the high smoke point. Frankly, I’m going to try it because it sounds like it might be delicious!

      However, I’ll be using it with caution. As I read in the comments above a post from an anonymous user added a link: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/id/QAA326604

      What I read there was pretty eye opening and really gave me reason to pause. I’ll certainly be trying Ghee with great moderation.

      • Tea

        That article is very old, and the same site contains this info as well: http://www.drweil.com/diet-nutrition/nutrition/rethinking-saturated-fat/ (which directly contradicts the 1st one)
        I just felt compelled to write here and maybe help put someone at ease, as I’m someone who tends to be very sensitive to food information and then easily feels unsafe with certain foods after reading some scary info about it. And it’s tough, because about EVERYTHING one can find polarizing information in different sources. The other thing I don’t feel is fully correct in the main article here is EVOO’s smoke point(it’s higher) and about it turning cancerogenic with normal cooking temperatures. I truly disagree with that. I’m from the mediterranean where people have cooked on EVOO for centuries without detriment to their health. What I’ve been able to find is that the oil actually loses some of its health-boosting properties while heated, but doesn’t gain destructive ones(unless smoking). My source:http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=56 (it also says there that coconut oil’s smoking point is LOWER than EVOO’S. Go figure. I bet few people know that. I know I didn’t.)
        I hope this helps people. As someone who’s been scared and confused about cooking oils, I now cook on both ghee and olive oil interchangeably (almost) without fear 😉

  31. c

    Would you know if Goat butter can be used? and if so would that be even healthier or have no barring? Thank you so much.

  32. Melissa

    Today I made ghee for the first time and truly appreciate all the pictures that you put up as I was concerned for a little while that I was burning it but it was just the separation. Wonderful wonderful site, thank you 🙂

  33. Drue

    Damn! I just made this and my ghee is much darker than the product in the picture! I may have burnt it a little? Is it still safe to eat, is it going to taste terrible? I know I waited too long b/c the color was right, but it was still ‘foaming’ so I waited…

  34. Caitlyn

    Interesting information about the ghee. Not sure how I personally feel about consuming it (currently I don’t eat any animal products) but wonderful option for those that do. I wonder, if I chose to try it, do you think raw butter would work?

    Lovely post and love your blog :).

  35. Anonymous

    I love the taste of ghee. I do not like the texture when it is left out and it is too hard when kept in the fridge. I am going to experiment and add olive oil to it when it cools before putting it into the fridge. I am hoping it will be spreadable.

    • Susannah

      Texture? Maybe you strained it too soon. Properly made ghee will be smooth as silk. (unless it’s lack of texture that bothers you).

  36. Marie

    How important is it to use unsalted butter? I really want to use organic butter but there doesn’t seem to be any unsalted alternatives (I live in Sweden). What reasons are there to use unsalted butter and is there any way to go around this?

    Marie

    • Shelli

      Wow.. that was a surprising little tid bit outta nowhere! That article is nearly 10 years old and I wonder if there’s been any further information that still supports this. Definitely something to look into! Maybe this is why most of us haven’t heard about Ghee in the first place. I for sure haven’t until today. I’m certainly curious to taste it though. I was so so disappointed to realize EVOO turned into a nasty source of free radicals when you use it to cook. I’ve already had cancer twice and really, I don’t need any further help in getting it again! Thanks for posting the link, it was very eye opening and definitely something I’ll be doing a little more research on. Back to my air and water diet… pshh..

  37. Sarah B

    Hi Anon,

    Ghee actually has fewer calories than coconut oil – not a huge difference, but if that is something that concerns you, choose ghee 🙂

    Best, Sarah B

  38. Sarah B

    Hi J,

    I have never made ghee in a cast iron pan – other than the immense sputtering from the butter, I don’t see what the problem would be. Give it a try.
    Yes, use sterilized jars. Bake them in the oven, or whatever method you prefer.

    best, Sarah B

  39. j

    hi sarah-
    2 questions. would this work in a cast iron frying pan rather than a saucepan?
    also, do you have to boil the jars or anything before you pour the ghee in?
    thanks!

  40. Sarah B

    Hi Anon,

    You’ll lose a little weight from the water and milk solids, so around 400-450 grams. It all depends on the butter you start with and the time of year it is!

    Best, Sarah B

  41. Aomme

    Your blog is so beautiful and this post is very interesting! I have a question that what kind of oil would you recommend for deep-frying in this case?

    My brother is an environmental scientist and he once told me that using lard (like my Thai grandparents did)is better than using vegetable oil. Do you think that is true?

  42. Ashley

    Such an amazing post!! I haven’t used ghee, but I am pretty addicted to unrefined coconut oil right now. Definitely going to pick up some ghee soon. Thanks for the awesome information + witty way of explaining. 🙂

  43. Ana Carolina

    Hey, I am studying gastronomy and I really love your blog! I already knew the clarified butter, but I wasn’t sure about it’s good properties 🙂

    I have a blog about food to, if you want to visit me (too bad is in portuguese, I’m brazilian), and I’ll post this information to all my readers 🙂

    Thank you!

  44. Sarah B

    Hi Everyone!

    Whew! This article certainly stirred everyone up. I like it.

    First, all fats are 100% fat, they are just made up of different types of fat. Ghee is saturated animal fat, so it must be enjoyed within reason. There is a place for this type of fat in our diet, but the majority should come from cold-pressed vegetarian sources, such as flax, olive, coconut, safflower, sunflower, sesame etc.

    Secondly, yes, I have thought about writing a book. I suppose I kind of have one here already, don’t I? 🙂 I will just say that it’s all in the works. Thanks for asking!
    And I will absolutely make a list of my favorite cookbooks. Good idea.

    Thirdly, I sense some tension over this whole topic and I think that it is really great that we got a conversation going. This post was really meant to inform readers about a possible alternative to their typical cooking fat. Not to change their entire routine, just a change of pace, and I feel a good alternative for the few times you need to cook with high heat. That’s all To the poor individual who got sick after eating ghee, it is most likely because you are lactose intolerant and there was either some remaining lactose in the ghee, or you are just very sensitive.

    Thanks for all the feedback.

    Best, Sarah B.

    • Rekha

      Hi Sarah B. – since I am from India, I feel compelled to chime in :)! I make ghee at home regularly and would like to point something out, especially to the person who found it repulsive. If ghee is not cooked to the absolutely perfect point (the point at which it turns a little darker than golden brown), then the smell is quite different and will change the taste – a taste that I actually find repulsive myself :)!. I’ve noticed many brands that sell ghee, especially at the Indian stores, sell it in this form because it seems to be popular in North India. However, if you make it at home and wait for that point where the whole house begins to have this amazing fragrance, you might get a totally different experience. Anyway, if you think its worth trying a second time, give it a shot and see how you feel.

  45. Anonymous

    I went out and bought some ghee after reading this post. Mind you, I haven’t had dairy for over 6 years since I’m allergic, but I figured this would be fine. Every time I’m tried it, it gave me heartburn and I find the taste repulsive. I love this site, but the ghee is not for me.

  46. Monique

    have you ever thought of writing a book? I love your site/blog by the way. What camera do you use and how do you shoot your pictures?

  47. Mariko

    Ghee is delicious.

    (But so is olive oil for bread dipping! I can’t quite give it up, despite your very good argument. Thanks for the information. I don’t really like salad oil or spray, so that’s good.)

    • Shelli

      Hey Mark, she’s talking about using extra-virgin olive oil, not to use it for cooking. But go right ahead and keep on dipping with it! It’s still a great oil with healthful benefits, it’s just the low burn temp that turns it into bad stuff… Happy dipping!

  48. Denise Michaels @ Adventurous Foodie

    I really appreciate you taking the time to share this useful information with your readers. My husband has taken to scrambling eggs in olive oil in the morning – a habit I’m going to have to break him of. He’s originally from India – the home of ghee – so it shouldn’t be difficult.

    Also, just go to an Indian market and you can buy ghee all made up in a jar. (I’m heading over there tomorrow.)

  49. Anonymous

    Animal products have so many unhealthy factors that outweigh any positive factors that I would prefer to use Rice Bran or other healthy oils.

  50. shanley

    what is the percent fat of ghee in comparison to olive and vegetable oils as well as butter? and is it monounsaturated or mostly saturated?

    what vegetable oils have the the highest cooking point that are lowest in saturated fat?

    thank you for all your information!!

  51. Shelley

    Thanks for this post, I’m inspired to make some ghee asap! I’ve been cooking with extra virgin olive oil and will definitely stop after reading this. Absolutely love your blog!

  52. Celena

    Oo, I’ve been looking for a cooking oil alternative, this looks amazing! I’d heard coconut oil was good to use, but obviously every dish doesn’t work with coconut. Excited to try it!

  53. Anonymous

    Hi, i am wondering if ghee is any better than cooking with butter? (organic, pastured butter of course)karenhaverinen@hotmail.com

  54. Borum

    Thank you very much for some usefull information!! I have been searching for a safe oil for high temps without luck – looks like ghee is the answer. I havent seen any rice bran oil here in Denmark, but avocado is around and its safe?
    Any other? Coconut?

    • Darlene

      Touche Hannah! I use Rice bran oil as well as Grapeseed oil and also Avocado oil as well – why don’t the “people in the know” start publicizing these oils???

  55. Jennifer and Jaclyn @ sketch-free vegan

    SO glad you “clarified” ghee for us! I may need to change my cooking technique now.

    @ Anonymous, there are other oils besides ghee that have a high smoke point just like ghee such as rice bran oil or avocado oil, these points are both above 500 degrees and are very healthy oils.
    wikipedia “high smoke point” for other options.

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