# Two Methods

Method 1: Theoretical
According to this site, “commercial butter is 80â€“82 percent milk fat, 16â€“17 percent water, and 1â€“2 percent milk solids other than fat.” We have a little salt in there too.

Presuming standard atmosphere conditions, the water will boil at 100C (212F). The fats and solids should raise that temperature a bit as boiling point elevation can be accomplished by adding compounds to a solvent. Wikipedia reports that milk solids brown around 150C. My first idea for a crude estimate would be to calculate the boiling point as a percentage of composition. ~80% milk fats and ~20% water = 132C. This however is probably not realistic. It’s more likely that the water will begin to boil first, then the milk fats will brown.

Temperature estimation for that butter in the pan: 115C – 120C

Method 2: Anecdotal
On Tuesday, I splashed some boiling butter on my face. I now have two blistering welts on my forehead.

Temperature estimation for that butter in the pan: freakin’ hot.

### 10 thoughts on “Two Methods”

• 12/10/2009 at 3:44 pm

A smoke point and a boiling point are different things. There’s not too much water in there, and it’s immiscible with the fats so it’s in little droplets. Those will evaporate away pretty quickly without impacting the temperature too much. That’s what happens when the butter “foams” when you first put it into the pan.

The milk solids have a lot of unsaturated bonds that will start to degrade at some temperature, forming oxygen, water, carbon black, and some random organics. That’s the “smoke point” reported in wikipedia, and its lower that the phase transition temperature. So milk solids don’t actually “melt” or “boil”, they burn before that can happen. Butterfat has a low melting point (I think it’s about 30 C, judging by the butter in my kitchen in August), so it will melt into a fluid. But it doesn’t boil into a gas, it smokes at 250 C or so, degrading before you can get it hot enough to actually boil it.

So, if you’re browning your butter it’s about 150 C. If it’s done foaming but hasn’t browned yet, it’s between 100 and 150 C, and if it hasn’t foamed yet it’s between 30 and 100 C. Temperatures above 60 C can quickly cause burns, so if it’s foamed it can hurt you.

• 12/11/2009 at 12:25 pm

you know what would be another awesome contribution, would be a picture of your welts. Give the people what they want!

• 12/11/2009 at 12:48 pm

This would have been good, though since the day of the incident they have lost some of their luster. One of the welts was about the size of a nickle, the other a dime. They are right between my eyebrows and have resulted in much ridicule.

• 12/11/2009 at 1:23 pm

um, i saw them just last night and they are still somewhat in their glory. picture please!

• 12/11/2009 at 2:02 pm

Why not? The people seem to really want it. Give the people what they want! I vote for a picture.