Mushrooms are an incredibly flavorful and versatile ingredient. They're a great way to add savory umami flavor in cooking, and can also be used to bulk up vegetarian dishes, making them anything but boring.
Mushrooms aren't difficult to cook with, but they do require a little TLC. That's why I've put together this complete guide on mushrooms—everything from how to buy and store, to how to clean, cook and season.
You'll know how to cook mushrooms in no time!
How to buy mushrooms—what to look for and what to avoid
First off, it’s best to seek out mushrooms that are sold loosely instead of the prepackaged variety. Why? It’s pretty simple—you can pick and choose which ones you want. When purchasing mushrooms, look for those that have medium to large caps free of any discoloration or dry spots.
You’ll also want to steer clear of any mushrooms that are moist or slimy. Mushrooms should be mildly damp and springy, they should not be mushy or spongey.
When it comes to aroma, avoid any that have a sour smell to them. Mushrooms should smell earthy and slightly sweet, the stronger they smell (in a good way), the more flavorful they will be.
When looking for dried mushrooms, avoid any packages that look to have quite a bit of crumbled pieces. Choose single variety packages of dried mushrooms—mixes are often not as high in quality.
How to store mushrooms
If you purchase loose mushrooms, store them in a zipper-lock bag partially sealed. Stored this way, mushrooms will be able to breathe without drying out (as they do in brown paper bags).
If you purchase pre-packaged mushrooms, keep them in their original packaging. Once opened, rewrap any remaining mushroom in original packaging with additional plastic wrap as needed.
What to avoid when storing mushrooms: brown paper bags and damp paper towels.
Store dried mushrooms in an airtight container in a dry place for up to one year.
How to wash mushrooms
It somewhat depends on how you plan to use your mushrooms. If you’re cooking them, give them a quick rinse, if you’re using them raw in a salad or pilaf, simply brush them clean. Here’s how to do both:
Rinse Mushrooms Clean
Since mushrooms already have such a high water content, it’s no big deal to give them a quick rinse. Use this method if you plan to cook the mushrooms.
Place mushrooms in the basket of a salad spinner. Spray mushrooms with cool water to remove any dirt or debris.
Transfer basket to salad spinner and spin mushrooms dry.
Place mushrooms in a large bowl then cover mushrooms with cool water. Use hands to gently bob mushrooms up and down until clean.
Drain mushrooms and transfer to a towel to dry.
Dry Brush Mushrooms Clean
When the appearance of raw mushrooms matters, turn to the dry brush method of cleaning. Why? Washing with water has a tendency to discolor mushrooms
Damp Paper Towel
Gently brush the tops, bottoms and stems of mushrooms using a damp paper towel to remove any dirt or debris.
Use a dry soft toothbrush to clean the tops, bottoms and stems of mushrooms.
How to best sauté/cook mushrooms
We’ve all been there—sautéing mushrooms on the stovetop only to create a soggy mess of wilted mushrooms swimming in their own liquid.
How can you avoid this and instead create beautifully sautéed mushrooms that have a golden crust, a toothsome bite, and are full of flavor? It’s simple, follow these easy steps:
- Cut mushrooms to a consistent size
- Either slice mushrooms ½-inch thick or cut them into chunks by halving small mushrooms and quartering large one.
- Use a mixture of oil and butter and a mixture of temperatures
- Start by heating oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until their liquid has been released, about 5 minutes.
- Increase heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium, add a pat of butter and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are deep golden brown, about 8 minutes.
- Season with salt at the end
- Off heat, season mushrooms with salt and pepper to taste and use as desired.
When to salt mushrooms?
When sautéeing or searing mushrooms, it’s best to do it at the end of cooking. Why? Well, salt draws moisture out of food, especially produce like mushrooms which are 92% water.
Salting at the beginning of cooking encourages too much of their water to be released. When too much water is released, mushrooms take longer to brown—this combination of too much water and a long cook time creates tough sautéed mushrooms.
It’s best to sauté mushrooms over medium-high heat at the beginning of cooking. This temperature allows some water to be released—just enough to give them a toothsome texture but not so much that a short stint over high heat can’t evaporate it off.
To finish the cooking process, add a bit of butter and cook the mushrooms just a few minutes longer over medium heat to create a crisp golden crust. Finally, remove the mushrooms from heat and now season with salt and pepper to taste.
How to rehydrate dried mushrooms
Rehydrating dried mushrooms is a common cooking technique used to add tons of flavor to a dish. It’s also a great way to cook with varieties of mushrooms that tend to be hard to find fresh (procini).
Here is the best way to rehydrate mushrooms:
- Add dried mushrooms to a bowl and cover with water, let soak atleast 30 minutes, or up to 8 hours. If you’re short on time, you can use hot water, otherwise cool water works just fine.
- Gently strain rehydrated mushrooms from water using a slotted spoon, taking care not to stir up the dirt or grit that has fallen to the bottom of the bowl.
- If you’re planning to use the soaking liquid, or save it, line a fine-mesh sieve with a coffee filter, then pass soaking liquid through.
Resources: America’s Test Kitchen, Vegetables Illustrated. America’s Test Kitchen 2019
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