Not only am I a foraging enthusiast, but I am simply obsessed with mushrooms. And since I’m a culinarian at heart, it only makes sense that my admiration for all things fungi branches into what I cook.
Mushrooms come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. And between the different varieties and differing opinions online, it’s not always easy to navigate when, how, and even if you should clean them at all.
So, I’d like to walk you through how to prepare mushrooms the right way. You will learn when and how to peel them, a couple of cleaning methods, and three different ways to cut them.
Is It Necessary To Peel & Clean Mushrooms In The First Place?
Some people believe it’s best not to wash mushrooms at all since they absorb so much water that they will turn soggy.
Although mushrooms will soak up some water, as long as you’re not drowning them for an extended period, you’ll be just fine. And the small amount of excess water they do take on can easily be cooked off with an extra 10-30 seconds of cooking time.
As for peeling, this largely comes down to personal preference. It is one way to skip cleaning certain types of mushrooms with a lot of water. However, the skin is tender, edible, and doesn’t taste any different than the rest of the shroom.
And if you just can’t bring yourself to wash or peel your mushrooms, at least take a moment to brush off excess dirt and debris with a mushroom brush or towel.
How To Peel Mushrooms
This method will work for mushrooms with a distinctly round cap and an easily removable stem. The most common varieties are white button, crimini (a.k.a. Baby Bellas), and portobello mushrooms.
To peel a mushroom, begin by popping off the woody stem. This will give you the most room to peel the cap without hindrance. Of course, you can save and eat the stems too, as long as they’re not too tough, in which case, add them to your next batch of stock.
Then, looking at the underside of the mushroom where the gills are, you will see a bit of overhang, like the hem of a skirt.
Simply pinch a piece of this overhang between your thumb and forefinger and peel it backward toward the round part of the cap.
It will easily peel off in a thin strip, leaving a perfectly clean mushroom to work with.
Enoki, oyster, chanterelle, and other exotic mushrooms are not easily peelable. Basically, if it doesn’t look like a cartoon drawing of a mushroom for cooking, don’t try to peel it.
How To Clean Mushrooms
Method 1: With A Bowl
Remember that we do not want to drown the mushrooms and give them too much time to soak up excess liquid.
When using the bowl method, think of it as giving your mushrooms a quick dip, not a bath.
Begin by filling a bowl with cold water. Warm water can start the cooking process of delicate and thin-skinned mushrooms, leading to a slippery and somewhat slimy mess when trying to prep them.
Then, dump your mushrooms into the water, and get your hands in there.
Gently rub off any dirt or debris from the outside of the cap and gills, and around the stalk of the mushrooms.
Remove your hands, give the water a moment to still, and the dirt and debris will settle to the bottom of the bowl.
Finally, remove the floating mushrooms and either pat dry with a paper towel, or toss them in a salad spinner if you have one.
Method 2: With A Colander
The colander method for cleaning mushrooms is my favorite for its quick efficiency and little to no mess.
First, fill a colander with your mushrooms.
Run them under cold water, shaking the colander around to dislodge any dirt or debris from the mushrooms.
If needed, gently rub any remaining dirt from the mushrooms with your fingers.
Turn the mushrooms onto a paper towel and pat dry, or toss them into a salad spinner to get rid of water fast.
What About Mushroom Gills?
Mushroom gills are perfectly edible, and removing them is up to preference. In most cases, they’ll go completely unnoticed. But with their large dark gills, portobellos can be an exception.
You may want to remove the gills if you make a light-colored sauce with portobello mushrooms since the gills can discolor the sauce. Or, you might simply dislike their appearance or texture and want them removed.
To remove the gills of a mushroom, all you need is a spoon from your silverware drawer.
First, remove the stem by snapping it off at the base and discarding it.
Then, using your spoon, scoop and scrape out the gills. They will detach easily.
3 Ways To Cut Mushrooms
What You’ll Need:
- Cutting Board
- Sharp knife; a chef’s knife is perfect for all shapes and sizes of mushrooms, but you can use a paring or utility knife to prep smaller varieties.
Before you get to cutting, begin with either washed or peeled mushrooms.
And if you’d like to pop off the woody stem, you can do so now by pushing it close to the cap until it snaps off. Otherwise, you can trim the bottom of the stalk to remove the driest, most woody bit and keep the rest intact.
Quarters are an excellent option for roasting since the mushrooms will retain their meaty bite and texture. You can skewer these for veggie kabobs, plunk them into soups or stews, or braise them to serve over polenta.
To start, place the mushroom gill side down against the cutting board to keep it stable while you cut.
Then, cut the mushroom in half, slicing through the stem lengthwise if it’s still in place.
Finally, lay the halves cut side down and split them each down the middle again.
Sliced mushrooms are great for when you want to sauteè or brown them up quickly.
Since more surface area is exposed to heat, the high water content in the mushrooms will evaporate quicker. Leading to a golden and caramelized finish faster than if you were to keep them whole or quartered.
Place the mushroom gill side down against the cutting board. If the stem is still in place, nestle the mushroom against the cutting board on its side, stabilizing it with the tip of the stem and cap of the mushroom.
Now, create ¼ inch slices through the mushroom cap and stem if it is still attached.
Diced mushrooms are best to incorporate into fillings, duxelles, stuffings, and other mixtures. Anywhere you would want the texture of the mushroom to disappear while still packing a bunch of mushroom flavor.
To dice mushrooms is to go a couple of steps further than slicing them. So, start by slicing all of your mushrooms just as described above.
Next, stack 2-3 mushroom slices on top of each other and cut ¼ inch slivers into each slice.
Then cut those slivers into small cubes by cutting every ¼ inch perpendicular to the cuts you just made. Repeat the process with all of your sliced mushrooms
Tips On Storing Mushrooms
Moisture management is the key to keeping mushrooms fresher, longer. So, don’t wash your mushrooms before storing them in your refrigerator.
The excess moisture can turn them slimy and spoil them in no time. Instead, clean your mushrooms right before cooking with them.
If you can, cut mushrooms right before you use them. Cutting them ahead of time is fine in a pinch, but they’ll deteriorate and dry out faster once they’re cut.
Store them in the original packaging, a brown paper bag, or a plastic freezer bag with the top open in the vegetable drawer in your refrigerator.
Uncut mushrooms can last up to a week if stored correctly in the fridge.
Never freeze fresh mushrooms. When you eventually defrost them, the texture change will be drastic and unappetizing.
You can, however, freeze sauteed mushrooms to reheat later. They will keep in the freezer for up to a month.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you need to peel mushrooms before cooking?
Peeling mushrooms is all about preference, but is not at all necessary. If you’d like to skip a majority of the cleaning process and don’t mind losing a bit of your yield, peel those mushrooms and get to cooking.
Does peeling mushrooms remove nutrients?
Mushroom peel has a similar nutrient content to the rest of the mushroom flesh. So, the only nutrients that are lost when peeling a mushroom are those you’d lose from removing some of the flesh.
Do I need to wash mushrooms before eating?
You should clean your mushrooms before eating to make sure you will not introduce any dirt or bacteria to your meal.