Wash them? Definitely don't wash them? When it comes to how to clean mushrooms, there's a lot of conflicting guidance out there. Read on for simple and straight-forward tips to prep mushrooms for cooking.
Looking online for tips on how to clean mushrooms can make your head spin. Some will have you believe they'll transform into squishy, inedible sponges if they so much as take a brief dip under a stream of water. On the other hand, a container of mushrooms can contain quite a bit of dirt. So what do you do?
As long as you keep in mind a few main points, there are several ways you can effectively wash mushrooms (using water!) without worry that you'll ruin them.
- What's covered: The instructions here apply to many common varieties of cooking mushrooms, including white button, cremini (also known as baby bella), shiitake, and portobello mushrooms caps.
- What's not covered: Morel mushrooms (their nooks and crannies require additional steps and I do not have experience with them), less common specialty types, or wild/foraged mushrooms.
- #1 Rule: Clean mushrooms right before you intend to cook them. Otherwise they'll absorb any moisture and get a little soft and slimy as they hang.
Should I Worry if my Mushrooms are Really Dirty?
After buying a container of mushrooms that had a lot of dirt in it, I researched what this dirt was to assess my concern level regarding harmful microorganisms and how thoroughly I needed to clean them. As it turns out, there really wasn't a need for worry.
Commercially-produced mushrooms grow in material that's either pasteurized or otherwise sterilized (per the University of Idaho), which removes contaminants. So while the thought of biting into a clod of dirt alongside a mushroom isn't the most appealing, there by and large isn't the worry of ingesting anything bad.
Either of these methods work for button/cremini/shiitake mushrooms, though see the section below for portobello-specific steps. With either method, wash them just prior to cooking to avoid soggy, slimy mushrooms.
Place whole mushrooms in a colander or salad spinner and rinse them under running water to remove specks of dirt. Spin them if using salad spinner to dry, or otherwise pat them dry with a paper towel.
Cleaning Method #2
Instead of rinsing them under running water, you can wipe mushrooms with a damp paper towel or clean dish cloth to remove visible dirt.
How to Clean Portobello Mushrooms
Since portobello mushroom cups are larger and have a bigger capacity to hold water, I always go with method #2 for cleaning them.
- Start by wiping the outside of the cap with a damp paper towel.
- (Optional) Trim any raggedy edges with kitchen shears if you'll be stuffing them.
- Grasp the base of the stem and twist it back and forth to loosen and remove it.
- Using a spoon, scoop out the gills from the center on out. I keep the gills when making portobello mushroom burgers or Italian stuffed mushrooms (when using smaller portobello "stuffing mushrooms), but remove them if I'm stuffing them to make portobello mushroom pizza.
- To help keep the portobello cap together, press your finger on the outside edge of the cap behind where you're scooping the gills.
For button and cremini (baby bella) mushrooms you can leave the stems on, though you can trim them shorter if the ends feel a bit hard and tough. Portobello and shiitake stems will be too tough to leave on and eat, so remove them before slicing/cooking.
Yes, they're safe to eat. However they'd likely get in the way and have an unappealing taste if you're intending to stuff the caps, so they're often scooped out.
Containers of sliced mushrooms will likely have much less dirt than whole ones. Even still, I like to give them a brief wipe down or rinse and thorough patting dry before cooking. In my experience store-bought sliced mushrooms go bad quicker than whole mushrooms, so don't wash them and then store them back in the refrigerator. Use them right away.
A specialty kitchen tool, a mushroom brush is intended to brush away dirt while being gentle on a mushroom's surface. I'm sure some may find it worthwhile, but I haven't found a reason to buy one as the salad spinner/damp paper towel methods work fine for me.
How to Clean Mushrooms Before Cooking
- Mushrooms such as button, cremini, shiitake, portobello caps (not morels)
- Place mushrooms in a colander or insert of a salad spinner and rinse the mushrooms under running water to remove dirt. Pat the mushrooms very well to dry thoroughly (or spin in the salad spinner), blotting away any excess dirt in the process. Slice or chop as needed for your recipe.
- Dampen a paper towel or clean dish cloth and gently wipe the entire mushroom surface to remove all visible dirt. Slice or chop as needed for your recipe.
For Cleaning Portobello Mushrooms:
- Wipe caps with a damp paper towel or clean dish cloth to remove visible dirt.
- Flip the cap over and grab the stem by the base. Twist it back and forth to loosen and remove it. If the edges of the caps are very straggly you can neaten them up by trimming with kitchen shears.
- If slicing or stuffing the portobellos whole, scoop out the gills from the center on outward with a spoon. Hold your finger on the outside of the cap behind the edges when scraping the outer gills so the cap doesn't break apart. If you're making something like a portobello burger you don't have to remove the gills.
- These steps are intended for many store-bought varieties of mushrooms, including button, cremini/baby bella, shiitake, and portobellos. Additional steps may be required for other varieties of mushrooms, including morels and wild mushrooms, which aren't covered here.
- No matter which method you use, be sure to clean the mushrooms just prior to cooking so they don't sog up with excess moisture.
- Especially if you're going to saute them, dry the mushrooms very well before using in the recipe.
- The stems can be left on for button and cremini mushrooms if not stuffing them, though you may want to trim off the bottoms of them if they're feeling tough. Shiitake and portobello stems will be too tough to comfortably eat, so do remove those in full before cooking.
- Pre-sliced mushrooms will likely have very little dirt so may just need a quick wipe down with a paper towel.
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