How to clean and cook fresh mushrooms

Do your 'shrooms right

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The meaty texture and earthy flavor of mushrooms make a favorite addition to many fall dishes. Many people are disappointed when using fresh mushrooms, finding them no more delicious than the canned version, but the issue isn’t in the vegetable, but in the preparation. If you properly clean and cook your mushrooms, you’ll start to truly understand why fresh is best.

Selecting mushrooms

Mushroom selection varies slightly depending on what type you get, but in general, you should look for 'shrooms with a firm texture and even-colored flesh. The caps should be tightly closed. In fact, if you can see the gills, they're probably older mushrooms.

If you plan to cook them whole (as in stuffed mushrooms), pick up mushrooms that are generally the same size to ensure even cooking. In fact, when you're cooking them whole, try to skip the pre-packaged ones and opt for choosing your own individually.

When you get them home, pop them straight into the vegetable crisper in a vented container (never in the well-sealed plastic they come in) or in a paper bag loosely closed. Use them within three days.

Cleaning mushrooms

Whatever you do, don't run your mushrooms under water to clean them. They're very porous and they soak up water like a sponge.

Most mushrooms you can buy in the store are actually grown in a sterile environment, so you can simply use a soft-bristled brush to clean them. If they do seem a bit dirty, use a damp paper towel to gently wipe away the excess dirt.

Don't peel them, as that's where most of the flavor is. Just get rid of any dark or tough spots.

Cooking mushrooms

  • Mushrooms are relatively easy to cook and can be used in a variety of dishes. Just follow these tips when you're trying your next mushroom recipe.
  • If you plan to stuff your mushrooms, you'll need to remove the stems. To do this, turn the mushroom upside down, grasp the stem with your thumb and forefinger and gently twist. You can use a small spoon or fork to remove anything left behind.
  • Sliced mushrooms are probably the easiest to prepare. Just use an egg slicer to get perfectly uniform slices so they'll cook evenly.
  • Salt releases the water in vegetables. Since mushrooms do soak up so much from their environment, be careful salting them during cooking.
  • Cut mushrooms just before you plan to use them, especially if you're serving them raw, as in a salad. The bits exposed to air will actually brown as they sit.
  • Don't use aluminum pans when cooking mushrooms, especially lightly colored ones. They'll discolor as they cook.
  • Keep mushroom stems you don't plan to use in the freezer. You can pull them out later to use in soups and stocks.

Now try these mushroom recipes

Savory ground turkey and mushroom rice recipe
Burger with Swiss cheese and a side of veggies recipe
Stuffed mushrooms with roasted garlic and thyme cream cheese recipe

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix the Fish. You can follow her on Twitter @HireHeather.

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