Mushrooms are delicious and nutritious! Preparing them at home doesn't have to be intimidating.
How do you cook mushrooms the right way? Mushrooms are a super versatile ingredient. You can grill them, roast them, or sauté them. They go great in sandwiches, wraps, casseroles, and soups. They make a great side dish on their own too.
But a key mistake that most people make when cooking mushrooms is overcrowding the pan, which makes them go soggy.
In this article I'll show you how to shop for mushrooms, how to store them, and how to clean and prepare them for cooking.
Then we'll look at some herbs and other ingredients that work well with mushrooms and some dishes they work well with.
If you've only been using canned (tinned) mushrooms in your recipes so far, I'd like to convert you over to buying fresh mushrooms before we go any further. There's really no competition between the two.
Fresh mushrooms contain way less sodium, calories, sugar, and carbohydrates. They're also higher in protein and other vitamins and minerals.
Fresh mushrooms are a living food, while canned mushrooms have been soaking in water or oil for weeks or months on the shelf.
Next time you're buying canned, or jarred, mushrooms, take a look at the label as well. Most canned mushrooms are sourced from China, while fresh mushrooms are almost always sourced locally.
I shouldn't even need to mention that fresh mushrooms also have a superior taste!
When you're at the supermarket picking out a batch of fresh mushrooms, what exactly should you look for?
I'd recommend buying loose mushrooms when possible. They might end up being a little more expensive than prepackaged mushrooms, but you're better able to evaluate their quality and condition when you can inspect each one individually.
But for everyday cooking, buying prepackaged mushrooms cane be fine too.
You want to look for whole mushrooms with their caps still intact. Avoid any mushrooms that look dry or shriveled or that have discoloration.
Fresh mushrooms should feel springy, firm, plump, and light. Never spongy. They should feel slightly damp, but never slimy or moist.
Your sense of smell is a crucial tool when it comes to picking out quality mushrooms. The stronger their earthy scent, the more flavorful your mushrooms will be. Mushrooms should never smell sour or fishy.
It's a good idea to pick out mushrooms with large caps and smaller stems since the stems are often discarded anyway.
Mushrooms are high in moisture content and they can spoil quickly if not stored correctly.
When you buy loose mushrooms from the supermarket, they'll often come in paper bags.
Some sources suggest storing your mushrooms in a paper bag because they need to breathe. But personally, I find this leaves you with wrinkly and spongy mushrooms after a couple of days.
I also don't recommend wrapping mushrooms in a damp paper towel, which is another common technique that people suggest. I find this only makes them spoil more quickly.
If you're buying pre-wrapped mushrooms that come wrapped on a plastic tray, I've found it's best to just store your mushrooms in the refrigerator in their original packaging.
If you only plan on using part of your mushrooms, I'd leave the remaining mushrooms on their original tray and simply rewrap them with the plastic wrap.
I've found that if I simply leave mushrooms shrinkwrapped as they come from the store, they can stay good in the refrigerator for over a week with very little browning.
If you do buy your mushrooms loose, store them in the smallest size container you've got. But don't use the lid that comes with your container.
Wrap it in plastic wrap instead, and poke a few small holes in the plastic wrap with a toothpick. This will mimic the wrap used at the supermarket, which is actually more breathable than ordinary plastic wrap in most cases.
Fun fact: Mushrooms continue to grow after they're picked. They're still alive! Although refrigeration slows down their metabolism.
Alternatively, you can store loose mushrooms in a Ziploc bag and leave it partially open. This allows a release for the ethylene gas that your mushrooms produce (the same gas that fruits like bananas or tomatoes give off as they ripen.)
Giving an escape for excess ethylene gas will keep your mushrooms fresher and allow for some air circulation without drying them out.
You should store your mushrooms in the main compartment of your refrigerator. The crisper drawer is too moist of an environment and doesn't allow for enough airflow.
You also want to avoid stacking other foods on top of your mushrooms.
Bruised mushrooms won't last very long, and don't look as appealing either.
Try your best to keep mushrooms away from other foods that have strong odors, because mushrooms are porous and tend to absorb other flavors and odors.
When you store your mushrooms correctly using these tips, they should stay fresh for up to a week or more!
If you need your mushrooms to last more than a week, you can try drying or freezing them.
Mushrooms can be dried at home using a food dehydrator or low temperature oven. Cut your mushrooms into quarter-inch pieces and place them on a drying screen or oven rack with plenty of room between them for ventilation.
Preheat your oven to 150 F (about 65 C) and put them in the oven for at least two hours, turning halfway through. If your mushrooms aren't completely dry, you can continue flipping them and leaving them for an extra 30 minutes at a time.
Once they're dry, allow them to cool to room temperature and store them in an airtight jar for up to a year. Just take out a bit of mushrooms and rehydrate them as needed.
Drying is a great option if you don't have the freezer space to devote to storing your mushrooms.
Mushrooms freeze quite well. But it's best to freeze them as soon as you buy them, instead of letting them sit in the fridge for a few days and only deciding to freeze them once they're about to go bad.
If you've foraged or grown your own mushrooms and come home with a big haul, be realistic about how many mushrooms you'll realistically be able to eat within the next week. Then freeze the rest.
Mushrooms should be cooked before freezing. This kills the enzymes in them and maintains a higher level of quality during freezing and unthawing.
Some mushrooms can still be a bit covered in some debris when you buy them from the store, so it's always a good idea to clean off your mushrooms before cooking them.
Cleaning your mushrooms should be done just before cooking them, not as soon as you get home from the supermarket before storing them.
Washing your mushrooms before putting them in the fridge will shorten the amount of time they'll stay fresh for and they may get slimy.
Conventional wisdom says that mushrooms shouldn't be soaked because they will absorb too much water and become soggy during cooking.
So many people opt to painstakingly clean their mushrooms off with a toothbrush or individually wipe down each mushroom with a cloth.
In my opinion, that's unnecessary. Mushrooms are already 80% water, and 150 grams of mushrooms is only capable of absorbing about an extra 5 grams of water.
Any excess water mushrooms do soak up while washing will simply cook off in the pan. So feel free to rinse your mushrooms off in the sink.
Not only is it easier, but you'll do a better job and get more debris off as well. As long as you simply rinse them off in a colander and don't allow them to float in water for several minutes, your mushrooms should be fine.
Another good technique is to use a salad spinner. Place whole mushrooms in the basket of a salad spinner and spray them with water until all of the debris is removed. Then spin your mushrooms dry.
Any remaining moisture can be wiped up with a paper towel.
If you've bought mushrooms from the supermarket that have already been sliced, then cleaning them is a different story than if you had bought them whole.
Most pre-sliced mushrooms have already been cleaned and won't need much washing. Cut mushrooms are also more prone to absorb water, so only lightly rinse your cut mushrooms just before you need to use them.
When cleaning morel mushrooms, it's a good idea to cut each mushroom in half from tip to stem. Sometimes dirt and even insects can end up inside these types of mushrooms.
Even after you fully clean your mushrooms, there's still some additional preparation before they might be ready for cooking.
With button or cremini mushrooms, you're ready to start cooking them without any additional preparation.
But for portobello mushrooms, you might want to remove the gills before cooking them. The gills are edible, but they contain spores that will turn the liquid you're cooking your mushrooms in a dark color. Some people also don't love the texture of mushroom gills.
Removing gills from portobellos is easy. Turn your mushroom over and remove the stem by twisting it and pulling it out.
Then simply use a spoon to scrape the gills out of the mushroom. Then gently wipe the inside of the mushroom with a paper towel. This step is also necessary if you're planning to stuff your mushrooms.
If desired, you can use a knife to cut larger mushrooms into halves, quarters, or slices. Use a non-serrated knife for clean cuts.
For shiitakes and other types of mushrooms, you might want to remove the stems before cooking them. Just take a knife and slice the base of the stem off where it meets the cap of the mushroom and discard it.
Here are some methods that you can use to cook mushrooms. But first up, I need to share one important tip:
When you're cooking mushrooms, be sure not to overcrowd the pan.
This is the #1 mistake that people make when cooking mushrooms at home.
It may be less time and hassle to simply throw all of your mushrooms into the pan at once. But spending some extra time to cook a few smaller batches of mushrooms is really worth it.
Mushrooms have a high water content. So they need enough room in the pan for extra water to evaporate.
If you crowd your mushrooms, they'll end up soggy. Nobody wants that.
Sautéed mushrooms are delicious and fairly easy to make.
Simply add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to a pan and warm it up over medium heat.
Once it's warm, add your sliced mushrooms to the pan and stir them around frequently.
I recommend adding some minced garlic and about a quarter teaspoon of sea salt as well. But you can add any other herbs and spices you'd like.
At the start of the process, the mushrooms will sizzle as they release any excess moisture. They will start to sear and brown once all the moisture has been released, and it's important to continue stirring them during this phase.
Your mushrooms should be fully cooked in 8 to 10 minutes. They should be browned around the edges and lightly crispy.
To simmer your mushrooms, bring a pot of water to a boil. You can add up to 1 pound of mushrooms to a large pot of water at one time.
Once your mushrooms are in the pot, lower the heat to medium and allow the mushrooms to simmer for about 5 minutes. Just until they have softened.
Remember, you're just simmering them, not completely boiling them!
Then drain your mushrooms in a strainer or colander and transfer them to a large bowl.
You can eat them like this as-is, but my preferred way to eat simmered mushrooms is to marinade them first and eat them cold as a salad.
To make a marinade for your mushrooms combine some olive oil, wine vinegar, salt, minced garlic, and some of your favorite herbs. Then pour your marinade over top of your mushrooms and mix them with your hands until they're completely coated.
Cover your bowl and put everything in the fridge for at least two hours. Your mushrooms will absorb a lot of flavor from the marinade since they're so porous.
These simmered, marinated mushrooms make a great appetizer or finger food at a party!
Big portobello mushroom caps are awesome for throwing on the grill if you're having a barbeque in the summer. Especially if you're having some vegetarians or vegans over as dinner guests.
Grilled mushrooms have an excellent meaty texture that make a great substitute for beef burgers.
Follow all the preparation instructions from earlier to remove the gills from your portobello mushrooms, then coat the entire thing in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.
You can also marinate your mushrooms before grilling to add an extra layer of flavor.
Each mushroom will take about 4 to 6 minutes to cook. You'll know when grill marks appear.
If the weather isn't great, you can grill them indoors on the stove using a cast iron grill pan over medium heat.
Roasting your mushrooms gives them a more crispy texture.
I prefer to roast button or crimini mushrooms, but other varieties like shiitake will work as well.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190C) and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
Toss your mushrooms in a marinade like we discussed earlier and spread them evenly on the baking sheet.
They'll take about 20 minutes to roast, but you'll need to flip or stir them around a bit halfway through your cooking time.
I feel that most people who say they dislike mushrooms simply haven't had them cooked properly before. If mushrooms were soggy and slimy every time I ate them, I wouldn't like them either!
With the right cooking technique and some good accompanying herbs and spices, I think you'll convince even your mushroom-hating friends and family members to reconsider.
Mushrooms are a highly adaptable ingredient that go well with just about any other flavor or food that you can pair them with.
You can't go wrong with keeping it simple. Some olive oil, salt and pepper, and maybe some garlic are all you need to create some excellent mushrooms.
Of course there are plenty of great mushrooms recipies to choose from if you want to take it a step further.
Adding some herbs and spices will bring your mushrooms to a whole new level of flavor though. So don't be afraid to experiment and step outside of your comfort zone!
I've mentioned garlic a few times, but any similar vegetables like onions, shallots, or leeks will work just as well.
Also experiment with asparagus, peas, fennel, and tomatoes. And even lemon!
Mushrooms have a natural umami flavor which only serves to enhance dishes that are already savory. Try adding mushrooms to bacon or ham, veal, chicken, eggs. Or even fish and seafood.
Mushrooms are delicious with dill, parsley, basil, oregano, tarragon, ginger, rosemary, marjoram, pepper, and chives.
Wine, sherry, brandy, and vinegar are all popular for dishes that include mushrooms. Especially for marinating.
Mushrooms also go well in stocks for soups or stews.
And don't forget you can try them with cream or cheese-based recipes as well!