Crustacean Butter


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Yield:

    1 pound

Appears in


By James Peterson

Published 1991

  • About

Crustacean butter is used for finishing and adding complexity not only to crustacean sauces but to fish and certain meat sauces as well. It is also useful for last-minute sauces, to which the flavor of crustaceans can be added without starting an américaine-style sauce from scratch.

Crustacean butter is prepared from cooked crustacean shells. Shells with a bright orange color, such as lobster and crayfish, are best. Because crustacean butter takes considerable time to prepare, it is best to save the shells when preparing lobster for salads and other dishes in which the shells are removed and freeze them until needed. However, avoid hard claw shells, which can damage your mixer.

Crustacean butter is valuable in sauce making not only for its flavor, but also for its bright color. By cooking crustacean shells with butter, flavor and color are extracted that would be left behind if the shells were cooked only in stock or other water-based liquids.

Because crustacean butter is intensely flavored, a little goes a long way. It can be prepared in batches and refrigerated or frozen until needed. It keeps in the refrigerator for up to a month and can be frozen almost indefinitely.


cold butter lb 675 g
cooked crustacean shells, preferably lobster or crayfish 3 lb 1.3 kg
hot water 2 qt 2 L


  1. Cut the butter into large chunks and add it to the lobster or crayfish shells in the bowl of a stand mixer. (A)

    The shells should not come more than two-thirds up the sides of the bowl or they might fly out while the mixture is being worked. If your mixer is small, you may need to work in batches.

  2. Attach the paddle blade to the mixer and start on slow speed. Work the shells with the butter until the mixture starts to hold together in a single mass, usually after about 5 minutes. (B)

  3. Turn the mixer speed up slightly and work the shells with the butter for 20 to 30 minutes. The butter should take on a salmon color. (C)

  4. Transfer the mixture to a heavy-bottomed pot. Place the pot on the stove and gently heat it (D)

    until the butter has melted. Cook the butter for about 30 minutes. If there is any sign of boiling or if the butter starts to brown around the edges, immediately turn down the heat.

  5. Add enough hot water to cover the shells by about 2 inches (5 cm). (E)

  6. Chill the pot with the butter in the refrigerator or in a bowl of ice until the butter floating on the surface congeals into a hard, solid mass. (F)

  7. Carefully remove the butter (which should be bright orange) from the surface of the water in the same way as removing fat from a chilled stock. (G)

    Discard the crustacean shells and the liquid.

  8. Put the congealed butter into a small saucepan and gently bring it to a simmer. Be careful not to overheat it or it may brown and lose its flavor and color. On the other hand, be sure that you boil off any water in the butter or it can cause the butter to turn rancid. The butter is ready when it stops sputtering. The very moment this becomes perceptible, plunge the bottom of the saucepan in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking.
  9. Strain the butter through a fine-mesh strainer or fine chinois to remove fragments of shell and other particles. (H)

  10. The crustacean butter is best stored in small, tightly sealed mason jars kept in a cool place or in the refrigerator. When you first open the butter, give it a sniff to see if it’s rancid. When well sealed, crustacean butter keeps for up to a year. If more has been prepared than will be needed over a year, the excess can be frozen. (I)