For many, mushrooms are an intimidating food to prepare. You might not be sure how to wash them, how to cook them or how to store them— and since mushrooms are such a soft, porous fungi, it’s easy to “mess them up.”
Properly preparing your mushrooms can help to ensure your food has the highest nutritional benefit and the best texture possible.
Here are six preparation tips for serving the freshest mushrooms possible, straight from the experts at Monterey Mushrooms:
1. Snap your mushrooms to test how fresh they are.
Can’t remember how many days you had those mushrooms sitting in your fridge? That’s okay— there’s a quick way to tell if they’re still fresh.
Take out a whole mushroom and try to break the stem from the cap. If you hear and feel a bit of a snap, your mushroom is still fresh. Generally speaking, the louder the snap, the fresher the mushroom.
If the mushrooms feel mushy, slimy or simply won’t break when you try to snap them, it’s best to compost what you have and write “mushrooms” on your grocery list.
2. Store your mushrooms in their original container until open; then, paper bag them.
Mushroom growers like us at Monterey Mushrooms specifically engineer our packaging to keep your fungi preserved and fresh, so don’t be afraid to let your mushrooms sit in their original container until you’re ready to use them.
After opening or removing the plastic from the top of the package, store your loose mushrooms in a brown paper bag. This will allow the moisture they naturally retain to be slowly released, whereas, in a sealed plastic bag, the trapped wetness will cause your mushrooms to age quickly.
The humid environment will cause them to break down and decompose, or get slimy much faster than a more breathable container, so never tightly seal your fungi.
3. Know when and how to wash your mushrooms.
Many people are confused about whether or not to wash mushrooms before eating them. While there are rare times when running your mushrooms under water is okay (like when you’re preparing a soup or a one pot meal and they’ll be in liquid as they cook), rinsing is not usually recommended.
Even the quickest rinse will leave your cap surface slimy and damp, and soaking them will cause them to engorge and compromise your flavor and texture.
Instead, wipe your mushrooms off with a damp paper towel right before you’re ready to use them. Don't prep them before it's time to cook, as you'll only contribute to the aging process and your mushrooms will not last as long. Sometimes they’ll just need a dry gentle brushing to remove any remaining dirt.
4. Choose the best way to slice your mushrooms.
“You slice mushrooms, right? That’s the only way to prepare them.” Wrong!
While slicing is a popular option, there are a number of ways you can cut up your mushrooms. We recommend chopping your mushrooms based on the size of the fungi at hand, however, most common types can be easily cubed or quartered.
Larger Portabella caps can be diced. Simply clean out the gills, cut off the veil on the outer edge and cut lengthwise, then crosswise.
5. Don’t crowd your mushrooms when cooking on the pan.
This sounds like it couldn’t possibly make a big difference, but the results are outstanding. Mushrooms have a very high water content, no matter which variety you choose. Overcrowding your mushrooms on the pan doesn’t allow for the released moisture to escape.
That’s why when you cook a ton of mushrooms in a small pan you might notice that your fungi has become overly soggy— the steam had nowhere else to go and remained inside your mushrooms. Next time you have a lot of mushrooms to sauté, divide them into batches and choose your biggest pan on the stovetop.
Or, consider baking in the oven on a baking sheet. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Brush your mushrooms with one tablespoon of oil for every eight ounces of fungi and place them on a shallow baking pan. Stir occasionally until brown, at about the 20-minute mark and viola— perfectly cooked mushrooms!
6. Freeze mushrooms to save for later.
Did you buy too many mushrooms? Or was there a really good sale that you just couldn’t pass up?
If you find yourself with too many mushrooms to eat at once, freeze your fungi for another time. Simply slice and saute them in the pan. (If you try to freeze them raw, they’ll turn to mush when defrosted, since mushrooms are about 95% water).
Place them in freezer-safe plastic bags and mark the date with a marker. Your mushrooms will last six months in your freezer if properly prepared and stored. Read our post all about freezing mushrooms to learn more.
In addition to freezing, there are other ways you can store your mushrooms to extend their shelf life. Check out our Italian Marinated Mushrooms Canning Recipe to jar your flavored fungi.
Make the Most of Your Mushrooms
If you loved these mushroom preparation tips, then you’ll absolutely love our other post on mushroom hacks to save time. Check it out!
Another exciting way to prepare your mushrooms is to blend them with your favorite meat. Not only will it cut down on your caloric intake, but blended meals are packed with flavor.
Here are four reasons to start blending mushrooms with meat to encourage you to embrace the blend.