Master the Art of Cooking Mushrooms: A Beginner’s Guide

Learn mushrooms how to cook from selecting, cleaning, cooking techniques, to recipes and storage tips in this beginner's guide.

Selecting the Best Mushrooms for Cooking

When cooking mushrooms, selecting high-quality mushrooms is key to a delicious dish. Look for mushrooms that have fresh, unbroken caps. Their gills should be intact, not ripped or bruised. Mushrooms should have an earthy smell and feel slightly spongy, not slimy, when gently squeezed. Popular cooking mushrooms include cremini, oyster, shiitake, and portobello Agaricus bisporus.

Cremini mushrooms are firm, flavorful, and versatile. Oyster mushrooms are delicate with oyster-shaped caps. Shiitake mushrooms have meaty caps and stems and produce an umami flavor. Portobello mushrooms have large, wide caps and a robust, savory flavor.When cooking mushrooms how to cook, choosing a mix of mushrooms will provide more complex flavors to your dish.

The basics of cooking mushrooms how to cook are simple but following some tips will help you make the most of your mushrooms. Look for mushrooms with caps that are unbroken and intact gills. Give them a gentle squeeze to check that they feel slightly spongy, not slimy. Inspect mushrooms for any dirt or debris and gently wipe clean or briefly soak in salted water. Trim only the very end of the stem before cooking. Over-trimming results in loss of flavor and texture. With so many varieties of mushrooms available, experiment with different types to discover your favorites. When prepared well, mushrooms can be a very satisfying addition to your diet.

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Cleaning and Preparing Mushrooms

Once you have selected fresh, high-quality mushrooms, properly cleaning and preparing them is essential for both safety and flavor. Gently wipe mushrooms clean with a damp paper towel or soft brush to remove any dirt or debris. Avoid soaking mushrooms in water which can make them soggy. Only briefly rinse mushrooms if needed and pat dry immediately.

For most mushrooms, trim only the very end of the stem. Over-trimming results in loss of flavor and texture. For shiitake and oyster mushrooms, remove the entire stem before cooking. For porcini and other wild mushrooms, wipe with a damp cloth to remove dirt – do not rinse. ** Brush away or cut off any damaged spots.**

For slicing, consider the shape and size of your mushrooms. Cremini, portobello, oyster and most wild mushrooms can be grilled whole, sliced or chopped. Shiitake mushrooms should be stemmed, then sliced or chopped. The accompanying table provides suggested slicing methods for common mushroom types:

Mushroom TypeSuggested Slicing Method
CreminiSliced, chopped or grilled whole
PortobelloGrilled whole, sliced or chopped
OysterTorn or chopped
ShiitakeSliced or chopped
PorciniSliced or chopped

To slice mushrooms, place stem side down on a cutting board. For mushrooms with rounded caps like cremini or shiitake, slice off 1/4-inch thick slices by cutting from the stem end toward the cap end. For mushrooms with flatter caps like oyster or porcini, slice lengthwise to produce wider slices.

Chopping mushrooms produces irregular bite-sized pieces. Holding your knife at an angle, slice mushrooms in half first, then continue slicing in a grid pattern. Mushrooms can be sliced or chopped just before cooking, but should be used soon after as they will continue to release moisture and soften. For the best results, cook mushrooms within 4 hours of cleaning and slicing.

Mushrooms contain a natural preservative called agaritine that causes mushrooms to grow brown when exposed to air. To prevent oxidation, toss mushrooms in a bit of lemon juice or oil as soon as they are sliced or chopped. Alternatively, store them in an airtight container or loosely cover with a damp paper towel until ready to cook. With the proper care when cleaning and preparing, mushrooms will yield an abundance of flavor and texture when cooked.

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Basic Mushroom Cooking Techniques

Mushrooms are versatile and lend themselves well to various cooking techniques. The most common methods for cooking mushrooms include:

Sauteing is quick and simple. Heat butter or oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced or chopped mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly browned, about 5 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Sauteing mushrooms allows their natural umami flavor to shine through.

Grilling mushrooms develops rich, smoky flavors. Brush mushrooms with oil and grill over direct medium-high heat, turning once, until marks appear, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Can grill mushrooms whole, sliced or in kebabs. Portobello mushrooms are ideal for grilling.

Broiling mushrooms quickly browns their tops under the intense heat of the broiler. Arrange mushrooms on a broiler-proof dish and broil 4 to 6 inches from the heating element until tops are browned, about 3 to 5 minutes. Broiling is a simple hands-free technique but mushrooms need to be watched carefully as they can burn quickly.

Braising mushrooms results in very tender and flavorful mushrooms. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes until starting to soften. Add broth and herbs, reduce heat, cover and simmer gently until mushrooms are very tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Mushrooms retain moisture but also develop rich, concentrated flavors.

Roasting mushrooms brings out their natural umami flavor. Toss mushrooms with oil, pepper, and herbs. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and roast at 400 F, stirring once, for 15 to 25 minutes until tender and lightly browned. Shiitake, oyster and portobello mushrooms stand up well to roasting.

The basics of cooking mushrooms are simple but following some tips will help achieve the best results:

•Use butter, olive oil or duck/goose fat which have high smoke points. Vegetable/canola oil can impart a greasy taste.

•Do not crowd the mushrooms which causes them to steam rather than brown. Cook in a single layer.

•Add fresh or dried herbs like rosemary, thyme, parsley or sage. They enhance the earthy flavor of mushrooms.

• For extra flavor, add minced shallots or garlic during the last few minutes of cooking.

•Adding broth or wine during braising, cover and simmer mushrooms until they reach your desired tenderness.

•Roast mushrooms uncovered – covering causes excess moisture which hinders browning.

•Cook mushrooms within 4 hours of cleaning and slicing for best quality. Store briefly in the refrigerator.

With some basic knowledge of mushroom cooking techniques, you’ll be prepared to make the most of these woodland delicacies. Sauteed mushrooms are a perfect side for steak or spooned over risotto. Grilled portobello mushrooms are a vegetarian burger alternative. Braised mushrooms enhance pasta, polenta or mashed potatoes. However you choose to cook them, mushrooms are always a satisfying accompaniment or main dish.

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Delicious Mushroom Recipes to Try at Home

Mushrooms are versatile and work well in many recipes. Here are some delicious mushroom recipes to try at home:

Mushroom Risotto is comforting and savory. Saute 1 pound of sliced mushrooms in butter until tender. Add to 4 cups simmering vegetable or mushroom broth and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet. Stir in 1 chopped onion and 2 minced cloves of garlic, cook 2 minutes. Stir in 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice and 1/2 cup white wine. Simmer, stirring frequently, until rice is tender and has absorbed most of the liquid, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Wild Mushroom Soup is an earthy and hearty soup. Saute 1 pound of mixed wild mushrooms (porcini, shiitake, oyster, etc.) in butter until softened. Add 4 cups mushroom or vegetable broth, 1 diced onion, 3 minced cloves garlic and 2 diced carrots. Simmer for 10 minutes. Puree some of the vegetables and mushrooms, then return to the pot. Whisk in 2 tablespoons flour, 2 tablespoons cream or half and half and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley. Simmer for 2 more minutes. Season with thyme, salt and pepper. Serve with crusty bread.

Mushroom and Asparagus Frittata is a perfect brunch dish. Whip 8 eggs and 1/4 cup milk with salt and pepper. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 pound mushrooms and 4 spears chopped asparagus, saute until tender. Add to eggs. Melt another tablespoon of butter in the skillet, pour in egg mixture. As bottom sets, use spatula to gently push eggs from edge into center, tilting skillet, so uncooked egg runs underneath. Do not stir vigorously. When mostly set but top still runny, place skillet under preheated broiler. Broil 2-3 minutes until top is set and golden. Slide frittata onto cutting board, cut into wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Mushroom Bruschetta is an easy appetizer. Toss 1 pound sliced mushrooms, 3 minced garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, salt and pepper. Saute over medium-high heat until mushrooms are tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and serve with grilled or toasted bread. Garnish with goat cheese or parsley if desired.

Stuffed Mushroom Caps are always a hit at parties. Remove stems from 1 pound large white mushrooms, chop stems. Mix with 6 ounces softened cream cheese, 1/4 cup grated parmesan, 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 tablespoons parsley, salt and pepper. Spoon into mushroom caps, place on a baking sheet. Broil 4 inches from heat until topping is bubbly, 5 to 10 minutes. For vegetarian option use dairy-free cream cheese and non-dairy parmesan. Serve warm.

Mushrooms provide a savory umami-rich quality to recipes which meat eaters and vegetarians alike can enjoy. Homemade mushroom stock or mushroom sauce are also great to have on hand to enhance the mushroom flavor in your cooking. There are endless ways to cook with mushrooms, so get creative and you’ll surely produce some delicious mushroom recipes of your own!

Tips for Storing and Preserving Mushrooms

Proper storage and preservation methods help maximize the shelf life and quality of mushrooms. Here are some tips for storing and preserving mushrooms:

For short-term storage up to 4 days, keep mushrooms in the refrigerator in their original packaging or place in a paper bag. Do not seal airtight. The paper bag allows for air flow to prevent excess moisture buildup while keeping mushrooms protected. Check mushrooms daily and use as soon as possible.

For longer storage up to 1 week, keep mushrooms on a plate lined with a paper towel or clean kitchen towel in the refrigerator. The towel will absorb excess moisture while keeping the mushrooms in an open environment. Change the towel daily or if it becomes saturated. Check mushrooms daily and use as soon as possible.

Mushrooms can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Gently rinse, pat dry and slice or chop mushrooms. Spread on a plate or baking sheet and freeze until firm, about 2 hours. Transfer to an airtight container or ziplock freezer bag. When ready to use, do not thaw, cook mushrooms directly from frozen. Frozen mushrooms will be very soft when cooked so are best used in dishes with excess liquid like stews, braises, soups and sauces.

To dry mushrooms, bake on a low temperature or use a food dehydrator. Mushrooms can be dried whole or sliced. Wash, pat dry and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 170 F for 12-24 hours, stirring occasionally and flipping mushrooms over halfway, until completely dried and crisp. Transfer to an airtight jar or bag. Rehydrating dried mushrooms involves soaking in boiling water until plump and tender before use in cooking. One ounce of dried mushrooms equals about 4 ounces of fresh.

Pickling mushrooms preserves them via an acid like vinegar. Wash and thinly slice 1 pound mushrooms. Combine 1 cup vinegar (white wine or champagne), 1 cup water, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1 tablespoon salt. Place mushrooms in a jar and pour brine over to cover. Seal and refrigerate 1 week before eating. Mushrooms pickled in this way can last up to 6 months refrigerated. The vinegar prevents bacterial growth.

**Mushroom ketchup or mushroom soy sauce ** made from mushrooms, spices and vinegar or soy sauce is also a way to preserve mushrooms with a long shelf life. Homemade or commercial versions can be used for cooking or as a condiment.

By choosing your preferred method of preservation, you can enjoy the umami flavor of mushrooms year-round. Freezing is the most versatile but drying, pickling and making mushroom ketchup or soy sauce are also great options to consider. When stored properly in the short term or preserved, mushrooms stay fresh and ready to enhance your home cooking.

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