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Some people say cleaning with water removes the taste from mushrooms.

But if I don't use water the mushrooms will carry a lot of dust.

Do you have any techniques for cleaning mushroom so I don't eat crap but don't spoil the mushroom?

  • 7
    I've found that not only can I not tell whether or not a mushroom has been cleaned before cooking, neither can my customers. If you make sure to shake/wipe the noticeably large dirt chunks off before cooking you'll be fine. – Fambida Sep 14 '11 at 16:22
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    @Fambida That seems reasonable for cultivated mushrooms, and perhaps a few wild ones, but it is hard to imagine it working for many wild mushrooms, e.g. maitake, which has lots of crevices that usually have some soil and/or bugs. – David LeBauer Oct 13 '14 at 2:58
  • @Fambida Exactly, that's why I don't wash my hands after using the bathroom. The customers will never notice, why bother? – Turch Jun 8 at 18:32

16 Answers 16

8

It's important to note that wash or no wash, mushrooms themselves already have a high water content so their ability to absorb more water is limited. Estimates I've found put the range between 75-90% water, depending on the type of mushroom. Cooks Illustrated, for example, puts it at 80%.

Sources such as Cooks Illustrated, Alton Brown, Harold McGee, Robert Wolke, and Kenji Lopez Alt have tested washing mushrooms by weighing them pre- and post-wash, and all found that mushrooms absorb a minimal amount of water that does not significantly affect cooking time. Both McGee and Wolke soaked the mushroom for five minutes - so much longer and with more direct contact than than a normal simple rinsing. Lopez Alt's testing, for example, found that the mushrooms absorbed only about 2% of their total weight which translated to an extra 15 to 30 seconds of cooking time. After testing, these sources all encourage washing mushrooms.

Several of the sources also observed that most of the additional weight is on the surface of the mushroom, which can either be patted dry with a towel or paper towel, or removed with a salad spinner, as other previous answers here have noted.

Cooks Illustrated suggests only washing whole mushrooms, as when cut they can become more absorbent. They also suggest that if you are serving the mushrooms raw, use a tooth brush to brush them clean rather than rinsing because rising can cause discoloration.

Washing should be only done just before cooking. Washing and then storing mushrooms can shorten their shelf life and they can become slimy on the surface.

Wolke notes that if your mushrooms are steaming rather than browning, it's more likely that your pan is too crowded rather than a function of having washed them.

Cooks Illustrated describes their process here, McGee in The Curious Cook, Wolke in What Einstein Told His Cook, Lopez Alt in The Food Lab (and also Serious Eats) and the best I could find for Alton Brown were transcripts from the Good Eats Fan Page. Both the the Cooks Illustrated and Serious Eats links also have more general tips on mushroom storage and prep.

27

I find that brushes and even paper towels are too rough on mushrooms. I use cold running water and gentle rubbing by hand.

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    You're using too stiff of a brush then ... I keep three around -- a really stiff one for cleaning pots, a medium one for scrubbing root vegetables, and a soft one for mushrooms and de-silking corn. And remember -- for mushrooms, you're just lightly brushing them off, not trying to scrub them like to would to clean a potato. – Joe Jul 11 '10 at 5:03
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    Still prefer my hands :) – hobodave Jul 12 '10 at 17:10
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    I dont like putting mushrooms into water as the absorb too much of it and change thier cooking properties – NBenatar Oct 20 '11 at 12:35
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    @NBenatar - Alton Brown proved that to be a myth. – Chris Cudmore Jul 25 '12 at 14:08
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    @ChrisCudmore please Alton only assessed the effect of soaking on mass, not on other cooking properties (eg, taste) - also, he only evaluated the effects on the white button mushroom. – David LeBauer Oct 13 '14 at 3:06
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For larger white and crimini mushrooms I typically just brush them off lightly with a dry paper towel. Wet towels tend to smear the dust across the mushroom. I dislike mushroom brushes as they just clutter up the drawers and paper towels are always available if needed.

Button-size mushrooms tend to be more likely to be dusty and are difficult to hold onto so the above method isn't very effective. For these, place them in a bowl of cool water and quickly swish them around. Then lift them out and onto some absorbent paper towels or terry towels and pat them dry. Don't drain the mushrooms in a colander as you'll just be pouring the dust back on them. Don't wash anymore than you intend to use as excessive moisture is the primary enemy of mushrooms and can make them begin to deteriorate. Excessive handling and washing can damage the surface cells which will cause discoloration.

Shiitake and Oyster mushrooms typically don't need to be cleaned in either way as they are rarely dirty.

A small brush (such as artist's brush) can be beneficial for cleaning morels since they are truly "wild" and can have bugs and dirt inside their nooks and crannies.

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    I didn't know that some mushrooms didn't need to be cleaned. – hobodave Jul 18 '10 at 23:44
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    Cultivated mushrooms (white, crimini, shiitake, oyster, enoki) are grown in a medium that is typically sterilized before being inocculated with the mushroom spores. Shiitake and oyster and enoki rarely have any dust on them. Mushroom dust is probably MUCH cleaner than things we've eaten and had no idea of in the first place. White (also sometimes called "Parisian" because they were formerly grown extensively outside Paris), Crimini and Portobello (which are simply overgrown crimini mushrooms) are the ones typically needing washing if they do at all. – Darin Sehnert Jul 19 '10 at 13:46
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Alton Brown examined this question in the episode called Myth Busters.

Good Eats: Myth Smashers See scenes 10 and 11.

The conclusion is that you should wash the mushrooms in water. They do not soak water from a quick rinsing.

SCENE 10

Home Office

Know what this is? This is an instrument of torture. It's called a mushroom brush. Now when you're first starting out in the restaurant business, you spend a lot of time with one of these. And it's not a very good time. Now why would you want to brush a mushroom? Well, because they grow in dirt. Well, actually it's not dirt. It's compost. But it's pasteurized compost, so it's safe. But it still doesn't taste very good. It's got to come off. So why not just wash it off? Good question. Allow me to read from a respected culinary tome on the subject. Ah, mushroom ... there.

"Mushrooms are extremely porous. And because of that, they will absorb any water or other moisture they are placed in. Because of this, they should never be washed, only cleaned with a fine bristle brush."

Which leads us back to the instrument of torture. So is this fact or is it fiction? Well, I for one believe there's a very, very easy way to find out.

Read Scene 11 on the fan page.

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    That's not strictly true. He says they absorb water, but not a lot of water. About .2 oz of water for 4 oz of mushrooms. And they don't absorb more water the longer they're soaked/washed.youtube.com/watch?v=AW9npAc2Sgw youtube.com/watch?v=6p7UcCAw39c – paul Sep 11 '12 at 4:11
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    It is important to note that a) this experiment was done with one type of mushroom - the white button mushroom and b) only the effect on weight was measured, not the effect on taste. The OP specifically asked about the effect on taste (-1) – David LeBauer Oct 13 '14 at 3:04
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I use a soft brush (shaped like a mushroom!) and running water. Mushrooms don't absorb very much water, despite what you might think, so it's not a problem to wash them. If you're going to fry them, and are worried about splattering, they'll air dry fairly quickly after washing.

And yes, mushrooms are grown on rotting wood and composted manure. Not going to hurt you, but it's a little distasteful not to wash them!

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I use an 1.5" paint brush to clean mushrooms with. I actually have two, one with the bristles as bought, and another with the bristles cut about half the length. This provides a bit more "scrubbing" if needed.

I also use an 1.5" paint brush when gathering 'shrooms, a quick brush after cutting (no ripping from the ground please), This get's the worst off right away and makes cleaning once at home alot easier.

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I'm not a very sophisticated cook so I only ever use white button or Crimini mushrooms. I wash them quickly in a large bowl of water then pour them into a strainer to get rid of the water and finish by "drying" them in a salad spinner. The spinner works amazingly well to remove any water left behind.

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You have to clean them, since they're covered in dirt. I rub them gently with a wet paper towel so that the skin isn't peeled off too much.

2

I think this is because if you wash the mushrooms then immediately fry them you incidentally add more water and (partially) steam them.

Wash the mushrooms, pad dry and put them in a cool place on kitchen paper for a couple of hours before cooking. By this time most of the excess water will probably have evaporated.

1

I have a small brush (like this one) that I use to "dust off" the mushrooms. I don't use water at all.

1

I use a small knife to remove the small soil/dirt props. Works great. Sometimes I have some water running to clean the knife with, but a board works OK too. This way I don't need to use water or special brushes.

1

I dont like to clean mushrooms, however my favorite way to clean mushrooms if needed is to dunk them. Get a basket that can close on top. A quart sized berry container is perfect for this.

Put the shrooms into the container. Snap it shut and dunk it in cold water 2, 3 or 4 times. No bruising or damaging of the mushroom cap is needed.

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I like to just wet my hands with water and wipe off the dirt. That way the solvent properties of water help to clean it up more than a dry brush or towel would, and I'm not drenching it in water. I always buy them organic considering how close they are to dirt.

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A great tip that I learned from a famous French chef is to wash the mushroom skin with lemon juice. He also recommended to cook it on low fire with a little water on a pane until all the initial "green liquid/subtance" comes out (you should throw that liquid away). We did it for the preparation of a "blanquette de veau". The result was very nice.

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    I've never heard of "green liquid/substance", what kind of mushrooms are these? – rumtscho Jul 25 '12 at 11:40
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Peel them!Small knife from underside grab the turned under outer skin between thumb and knife tip and peel the outer skin.

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I learned from the best this summer. Maximum a few hours after getting home I clean them using a brush. Then cut off a tiny piece by the foot, just to get rid of the soil.

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