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What Is Beurre Monté?
Beurre monté, literally “mounted butter” in French, is a cooking technique for preserving the emulsification of butter at high temperatures. In beurre monté, chunks of butter are whisked into hot water to create an emulsion stable up to 180 to 190°F. “Buerre monté” is also the name for the resulting liquid, which you can use as both a cooking fat and a finishing sauce.
What Is Emulsification?
Emulsification is the process of forcing two immiscible (non-mixing) liquids into a suspension. For example, although oil and water don’t mix, you can break oil down into tiny droplets that remain suspended in the water. Emulsion thus occurs when small droplets of one solution (the dispersed solution, which is often oil-based) are evenly dispersed throughout another (the continuous solution, which is often water-based).
Butter itself is a naturally occurring emulsion. Unlike most emulsions, which are oil-in-water emulsions, butter’s continuous phase is fat (80 percent by volume) with water droplets dispersed throughout, making it a water-in-oil emulsion. When melted (around 158°F), the emulsion breaks down, separating the fat from the water.
Beurre Monté vs. Clarified Butter: What’s the Difference?
Both beurre monté and clarified butter are techniques that allow you to use butter at higher temperatures, but they do this in completely different ways. Clarified butter, or ghee, is butter that has been heated to remove the water and milk solids, leaving behind just the butterfat. Since clarified butter is 100 percent butterfat, it isn’t an emulsion. Beurre monté, on the other hand, involves heating butter in more water to stabilize butter’s natural emulsion. When warm, it has a creamy texture. When cooled or reheated, the emulsion breaks, and the water and fat separate. Clarified butter, like lard or schmaltz, is solid when cool, liquid when hot, and can be refrigerated for long periods of time without losing its structure.
Beurre Monté vs. Monter au Beurre: What’s the Difference?
Although these phrases sound similar and both involve butter, beurre monté and monter au beurre are slightly different techniques. Beurre monté is an emulsification of butter and water used as a sauce or poaching liquid. Monter au beurre is the process of adding cold butter to a sauce after you’ve taken it off the heat. Adding the chilled butter produces a similar emulsification effect, adding body and shine to an existing sauce.
Beurre Monté vs. Beurre Rouge: What’s the Difference?
Beurre monté uses water to stabilize a butter emulsion, creating a thin, pale yellow sauce. Beurre rouge, or “red butter,” involves a similar process but uses red wine instead of water. Chef Thomas Keller uses beurre rouge as a sauce for all kinds of dishes at his restaurant The French Laundry, including his pan-roasted monkfish tail. Similarly, beurre blanc is an emulsified butter sauce made with white wine.
How to Cook With Beurre Monté
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Beurre monté might seem like an unnecessary extra step in getting butter into food, but it can be a total game-changer for hot dishes. Try it for yourself:
- As a finishing sauce for meat, fish, or pasta: Simply pour the beurre monté over any hot dish. Unlike cold or melted butter, beurre monté won’t separate, and the texture will remain creamy.
- As an ingredient in other sauces: You can use unflavored beurre monté as the base for a sauce flavored with herbs, spices, lemon juice, shallots, and more.
- As a poaching liquid for vegetables or shellfish: Chefs use beurre monté as a cooking liquid since it adds a buttery flavor without frying delicate foods.
Simple Beurre Monté Recipe
Prep Time10 min
Total Time25 min
Cook Time15 min
- 1 pound cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces
- In a small saucepan, bring 4 tablespoons of water to a boil.
- Immediately reduce the heat to low and whisk in the butter, one tablespoon at a time.
- Once the sauce has emulsified, you can add the butter in 2–4 tablespoons at a time, whisking after each addition. Keep the sauce warm but below 180°F to prevent the emulsification from breaking.
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