IMO, few things are more off-putting than rubbery mushrooms that taste as if they came straight out of my niece’s play kitchen. Cooking with mushrooms can feel eerily similar to handling a sponge: They absorb any moisture around them and can quickly lose their light, porous texture upon contact with any liquid.
So, what’s the most effective way to wash mushrooms without ruining them completely? We spoke with a professional chef and culinary school instructor about exactly how to clean mushrooms while preserving their tender texture–and the good news is that it’s much easier than we could’ve ever imagined thanks to the help of one handy kitchen tool: a pastry brush.
How to clean mushrooms, according to a chef
According to Richard LaMarita, a chef-instructor of Health-Supportive Culinary Arts at the Institute of Culinary Education, cleaning most types of mushrooms shouldn’t involve a heavy flow of running tap water. Instead, it’s a much more delicate process. “The best way to wash mushrooms is to either wiping them with a mildly damp towel or better yet, gently brushing them with a pastry brush,” LaMarita says.
The chef avoids washing them under running water whenever possible to prevent them from absorbing too much liquid, which can negatively impact their texture and taste. “Washing mushrooms only increases their water content, and they can easily become soggy when cooked. I rarely wash or soak mushrooms,” says LaMarita. However, if your mushrooms are freshly foraged and are sporting a lot of grit and grime, then a quick rinse will do the trick.
And while dirt likely gives you the ick, LaMarita says that it shouldn’t actually be too much cause for concern. “99.9 percent of the mushrooms we eat are cultivated and not foraged. Therefore, despite what you might think, they are not grown in dirt,” he says. This is why cleaning them with a clean towel or pastry brush is usually more than enough. “Most mushrooms are grown in sanitary conditions: on sterilized logs, wood, or straw.”
The best way to prevent mushrooms from getting rubbery when cooked
When it comes to cooking mushrooms, moisture is the number one concern. “Mushrooms can get soggy or rubbery if you cook them with too much fat or liquid,” LaMarita says. According to him, the best way to prevent this is to avoid both overcooking them and using excess liquid. “My favorite way to cook mushrooms is by roasting them in a heavy-bottom pan like a cast iron skillet with some olive oil. I cook them until they’re cooked through and caramelized and I season them along the way,” he says.
And to further prevent his mushrooms from getting rubbery, LaMarita avoids adding any additional cooking liquid. “It’s not my habit of deglazing the pan [which is adding liquid to a hot pan to release any caramelized bits for additional flavor] as it can change that delicious meaty, hearty texture,” LaMarita says.
How to store mushrooms
Again, when it comes to storing mushrooms, the most important thing to keep in mind is protecting them from moisture at all costs. “The best way to store mushrooms, whether you purchase them fresh from a farmer’s market or in a store-bought container wrapped in plastic, is to place them on paper towels and then put them in a paper bag with the sides folded over so that the mushrooms are exposed on top,” before storing them in the fridge, LaMarita says. This creates the perfect barrier for staving away any condensation that can accumulate in your refrigerator.
LaMarita adds that it’s important to transfer store-bought mushrooms into this setup to prevent them from spoiling quickly. “If you purchase them in a sealed plastic container, they will get moldy and moist quickly,” he explains. This is why he says you shouldn’t wash them before putting them away. “Mushrooms are tricky; they seem like they have no moisture, yet they do, and they also attract moisture from the environment. The idea is to keep them from pulling moisture from the atmosphere and releasing any moisture,” LaMarita says. Which is why he says that “the best mushrooms are those that are dry, firm, and crisp.”
Love mushrooms? Same. Here’s a reishi mushroom hot chocolate recipe: