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Old 08-06-2006, 10:55 AM   #1
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Smoke Point of Clarified Butter

It is a generally accepted fact the smoke point of clarified butter is higher than that of regular butter.

Several years ago I saw a chart of smoke points that showed the smoke point to be the same as that for regular butter-350F. A subsequent discussion with the site manager revealed the information came from a CIA textbook.

The discussion on butter oil rekindled the thought. I did a quick google search and found this chart posted at the Dairy Research and Information Center that confirms what I had read earlier.

Any references I found (didn't spend a great deal of time looking) that were references in text rather than specific reporting of smoke points, made reference to the fact that clarified butter has a higher smoke point.

So I am faced with a dilemma. Conventional wisdom vs. published information.

What are your thoughts, opinions and reference sources saying?
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Old 08-06-2006, 11:05 AM   #2
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Here is my thougt...as with anything where we have been told one thing, but then heard the opposite to be true the only way we will know for sure is to try a side by side comparison ourselves. Anyone want to try?
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Old 08-06-2006, 01:29 PM   #3
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Logically it would seem that clarified butter would have a higher smoke point than regular butter because the milk solids would be expected to smoke at a lower point than the oil. It is well established that refined oils smoke at higher temperatures than unrefined oils, in some cases by over 175 degrees F.

That said, it is quite possible that milk solids and butter oil could both smoke at the same temperature.
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Old 08-06-2006, 02:20 PM   #4
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You've got a copy of McGee's On Food and Cooking ... don't you Andy? In the Revised edition an explanation, sort of, of the butter question is on page 802 - although there are no temperature charts.

What I have always heard is not that there is a difference in the smoke point - but that whole butter "burns" at a lower point than clarified butter due to the milk solids - which are actually what burn before the "oil" smokes. From what I gather - that is kind of what McGee was saying - although not as well as I did.
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Old 08-06-2006, 02:45 PM   #5
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I think what Michael said is the way I have sort of understood it.
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Old 08-06-2006, 03:41 PM   #6
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When using for cooking, it's not the smoke temperature that matters but the milk solids. Because the solids will burn, it will affect the flavor of the dish you're making. That in itself is what's more important than just the smoking point.
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