Mushrooms are one of our favorite vegetables—they’re incredibly versatile and delicious. Not only do they make a mean meatless burger (they have a great “meaty” texture and flavor), but mushrooms also work well as a nutrient-dense vegetable that goes well when cooked with pasta, in a stir-fry, inside tacos, on pizza, and more. You can literally enjoy mushrooms for every meal of the day!
However, there are many types of mushrooms to choose from which may require different preparation and various cooking techniques, so it’s important to make sure you’re cooking mushrooms to absolute perfection.
Not sure what you might be doing wrong? Don’t worry—here’s a list of the most common mistakes you might be making when cooking with mushrooms and what to do instead.
You Store Them in a Plastic Bag
Don’t jeopardize your mushroom recipe before even turning on the stove! After purchasing your mushrooms from the store, resist the urge to throw them in a plastic bag and into the fridge. Storing mushrooms in a plastic bag can lead to mold and dampness, and they might become a bit mushy, as well. Instead, keep mushrooms in an open paper bag inside the fridge so they can breathe.
What’s more, keep that bag away from certain foods that can change the taste and smell of those delicious mushrooms. For instance, if they are placed near alliums, herbs, cheese, and other ingredients that tend to be high in sulfur compounds or have very strong, detectable odors, the close proximity could affect the odor and flavor of the mushrooms, too.
You Don’t Clean Them Well Enough
FYI—mushrooms are dirty. You don’t want that dirt spoiling your dinner! Rinsing them with water as you would with a head of broccoli just doesn’t do the trick. Instead, wipe mushrooms clean with a damp paper towel to remove dirt, you don’t want to be too aggressive with these veggies.
Before tossing those mushrooms in a pan for an easy weeknight recipe, make sure they’re toweled off first and completely dry.
You’re Trying to Cook Them Low and Slow
Crank that heat up when whipping up a side of mushrooms for a quick and easy dish, like a noodle stir-fry. If you try to cook mushrooms on low heat in a pan for a longer period of time, your mushrooms will stew in their own liquid and won’t cook as they should. Plus, they’ll become soft, rather than nice and crispy.
Since mushrooms have a porous nature, they tend to absorb liquids fairly easily and quickly. So, by using a medium or high heat setting, the water in the pan will evaporate super fast and will turn your mushrooms a beautiful brown hue (which is what you want!).
Your mushrooms turning brown way too fast? No problem—simply lower the heat a bit. It may take some practice to figure out the ideal heat setting for your mushroom recipe, but once you get the hang of it, you’re all set. Keep an eye on your mushrooms as they cook and use your best instincts to determine the cooking rate.
You’re Cooking Too Many at Once
Let those mushrooms breathe! Throwing too many mushrooms into a pan at once can lead to overcrowding (like the New York City subway), where they won’t cook evenly or properly. And on the same note—make sure you’re using a large enough pan to fit the amount of mushrooms you want to cook.
Since mushrooms contain a vast amount of water naturally, they need to be able to let the water evaporate in order to cook evenly and crisp up. If there’s no wiggle room in the pan, the water won’t escape, and you’ll be left with a mushy mess.
You’re Stirring Them Like Crazy
Don’t stir those mushrooms every few minutes to see how they’re doing—especially at the beginning before they’ve had time to become golden and crispy. Mushrooms need some space and freedom to cook and caramelize without intense human manipulation. Put down the wooden spoon and let the mushrooms work their magic. Keep a close eye to avoid any charring or sticking to the pan, and to make sure your mushrooms are becoming golden as they should.
You’re Not Cooking With Fat
Since mushrooms have that porous texture, they absorb water and fat and need some fatty substance in order to avoid sticking to the pan or get too brown and crispy too quickly. You don’t want to skimp on the fats if you’re looking for flavorful, hearty mushrooms.
Select your cooking fat of choice (oil, butter—it’s up to you, chef!), then add in a drizzle throughout the cooking process. Mushrooms are thick, so if they seem a bit dry or start to get burnt and sticky, add in some more fats to help them out. Besides, everything’s better with a little bit of butter, right?
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