Adding a knob or two of cold unsalted butter into a warm pan sauce has long been a secret of many Chefs around the world. There’s a solid reason why professionals do it, and you can too—so, why should you finish sauce with butter? Read on!
In classical Western cuisine, the humble, fresh, and unsalted butter is revered highly. After all, this solid block of yellow wonder often lends its texture, sheen, loft, and flavor to a cooked dish or pastry when it’s added at the right moment in the right amount, all in the right way. In this article, we uncover the magic of adding butter to finish your sauce.
If you are familiar with fine-dining or just about any restaurant that serves a great dish with an even fantastic sauce, and you see the shine and gloss coming in that sauce… makes you wonder how these Chefs ever get their sauces to look so rich and glossy, right? The answer to that is a method known as Monter au Beurre.
What Does "Monter au Beurre" Mean?
Ah, the known secret to restaurant-quality sauces. For those who are into French cuisine and cook regularly in their kitchen following French recipes, without a doubt you will come across the term monter au beurre.
Monter au Beurre is a French term which translates to “mount with butter”. In layman’s terms, it is the act of finishing a sauce with butter. Using monter au beurre, you can elevate your sauces to something extraordinary. Any plain sauce or gravy will sparkle and have the most captivating gleam once you finish it with a simple plain knob of butter. It literally makes your sauces and gravy to shine through, and in some cases, people will want to dive in your dish for more of that irresistible sauce. Not only does it make the sauce and gravy look better, but it also adds a lovely soft viscosity to the sauce as well as some additional flavor.
This goes to say that it is not far-fetched at all for Chefs to love this technique and employ them in their sauces and gravy. Who could possibly resist a finished sauce that looks inviting and especially appealing when it is poured over or served with their dish? We know we can’t say no to something like that at all.
While finishing a sauce or gravy with butter sounds simple enough, sometimes people can get carried away and add too much butter. We have a technique that you can use to finish your sauce with butter. Soon enough, you will be using beurre monte to make all your sauces!
The Art of Making Beurre Monte
Beurre monte 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. You should never use butter that is warm as it will not incorporate into the sauce at all.
For two cups of sauce or gravy, do not use more than 14 grams of unsalted butter.
- Cut your unsalted butter into sizeable cubes. Then place the butter cubes into a freezer to chill for at least 30 minutes.
- Next, you want to heat up your sauce to no higher than 90°C. The most important thing to remember is to never ever boil the sauce. Boiling the sauce will make things too hot for the butter, causing it to melt too fast before it even gets to incorporate into the sauce.
- Now take your butter cubes from the fridge. At this point, you will need to remove the sauce from the heat. Check for its temperature if you can and add one cube of butter to the sauce.
- Then, you can either shake the pan to create small waves of sauce or gently whisk to scoop up the butter, and with continued shaking or whisking, you will see the butter disappear into the sauce.
- You should be able to see the sauce slowly start to thicken slightly and get glossier and shinier. You can continue to do so until you get your desired shine—just keep in mind to never use more than 14 grams of unsalted butter for 2 cups of sauce. If you notice that the butter struggles to blend in at some point, it is a sign for you to stop.
- Then all that’s left for you to do is serve that beautiful, finished sauce with your dish.
How to Reheat the Finished Sauce
If you do not intend to serve the (now glossy) sauce immediately, you can keep it warm over a bain-marie (hot water bath). Don’t use a microwave to reheat it too. And especially, NEVER allow the sauce to touch the hot water and never reheat the sauce directly in the pan because it can split. But if it does split…
What to do if Your Sauce Splits
Should something cause your sauce and butter to separate, immediately remove the mixture from the heat. Head over to the fridge and grab a few pieces of ice-cold butter and whisk them in the sauce again. The chilled butter will quickly bring down the temperature of the sauce and this should tie everything in again. The coldness will also reset (emulsify) the butter. If that fails, try whisking in a little more ice-cold butter, though adding too much can also dramatically alter the flavor and turn it into a butter sauce which is not what you want.
How to Store the Leftover Mounted Butter
Any leftover sauce that has been made using a beurre monter finishing should be well covered in an air-tight container and stored properly in the refrigerator. It will keep well for a couple of days, but not longer. Your best bet is to not let it go past 2 to 3 days.
Some Other Fun Fact
One thing you should know is that beurre monter should not be confused with beurre maniere. Beurre maniere is a mixture of equal amounts of flour and chilled butter. Chefs would take small pieces of the cold paste and whisk them into a gravy or sauce to thicken it. Employing beurre maniere, your sauce or gravy will never be as shiny as with mounting it with butter, but it what it does is thicken your sauce and gravy. Pretty cool tip.
Butter makes things better. The next time you find yourself making a sauce and want it to be the topic of conversation, toss in that chilled butter, and let it do its magic. Let those cold chunks of whole butter give you a richer sauce that has a silky sheen and velvety mouthfeel. We hope this article has been a ‘sauce’ of inspiration for you, and we know you won’t just do good, you’ll do ‘butter’ (all puns intended).
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