Most chefs stress the fact that white button mushrooms, and others, should not be washed to be cleaned. They say to either lightly brush them or just pat them with a cloth or paper towel to get the "dirt" off to clean them, and then cook or eat them raw. Do not "wash" them, to clean them, because the chefs says the mushrooms get waterlogged, and they believe something happens to the taste.

Well, as a little girl my Dad took me to a mushroom farm. It was disgusting because of the smell of manure. The mushrooms were in trays, enveloped totally in the manure in trays, that were stacked high according to the sizes and I don't remember what else. We were in darkness, and my Dad would go from one area to the next buying trays from all over. Years later, I became the buyer and I don't remember much other than the awful smell, the sizes, the darkness and how much I still loved to eat mushrooms. To prepare I washed them with water, got off all the excess manure, and depending on how the mushroom was to be prepared, stuffed, quick boiled in lots of salt then kept in that same salted water to be eaten with sour cream, fried with butter, prepared them many ways.

My question is, why do chefs insist that you should not wash, only use their method, lightly brush or towel off the mushroom? Isn't safety a reason to wash? And washing doesn't change the flavor, right?

  • Sorry, my computer is new and keeps cutting me off. We feel that the mushrooms are dirty and all of us have gotten sick with the chefs methods. w – user33210 Mar 1 '15 at 9:49
  • cont- washing does not change the flavor and we all wash and dry the mushroom. We even wash, boil in salted water, put in jar, cool and it lasts for about a few days because everyone goes crazy to eat it, and we put sour cream on it. It is delicious. We use the leftover juice to make a vege soup or a cold soup. So, why do these chefs all over the food network, internet, classes, etc., say wipe when for even over my Moms lifetime, 85 years, she has told me she washed those dirty mushrooms. Why don – user33210 Mar 1 '15 at 9:55
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    related: How to clean mushrooms? – Ching Chong Mar 1 '15 at 13:14
  • I don't think that there is a health risk regarding microbiological aspects. Cultured mushrooms are typically grown on sterilized substrate. – Ching Chong Mar 1 '15 at 13:17
up vote 11 down vote accepted

I have read a couple of experiments (in Dutch so I will not link them here) where people cooked the same dish from the same shrooms, with one batch brushed and the other washed.

The washed batch did need higher temparature to actually fry, instead of just boiling in their own moisture and the texture in the finished dish remained different. There does seem to to be some merit to the culinary traditions here.

As for the safety aspects, perhaps this will ease your mind somewhat:

Research minimizes effects of federal produce standards on mushroom industry:

But a new study shows that heat generated during the traditional composting process -- originally developed to kill insect and fungal pests of mushrooms -- is adequate for eliminating human pathogens that might be present, according to researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

If you got sick from eating a dish, the cause may not have been in the nutrition beds the shrooms were grown on.

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    Thank You I appreciate the article. I do understand that washing adds more water hence more cooking time. I adjust the fry pan, the heat, and how much oil or butter I use to prepare the dish. The one thing I have though, is peace of mind, and until that smell gets out of my head, we will still all wash. I waste too much time smelling food to make sure it passes my nose test. Want to laugh? When I first got married, 40 years ago, I was making stuffed bell peppers. I bought about 30. The first one I cut the top off, out flew a BIG MOTH! I screemed! Returned to store cut one, MOTH flew out again – user33210 Mar 1 '15 at 10:25
  • Fair enough of course. If you find something distasteful, simply don't eat it! – Richard ten Brink Mar 1 '15 at 11:47
  • I have read, re-read, and re-re-read the article from Penn State regarding the safety of the soil and the heating of the soil regarding manure. I am still skeptical but also a realist. The more I read, the more it makes sense and it has been a long time and a lot of good things have happened since my dinosaur days. I will still wash and try to smell garlic and onions instead of manure while working with mushrooms. Thank You – user33210 Mar 1 '15 at 22:35
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    Today, 3-2-15 we ended up at the hospital most of the day and got a salad at the cafeteria there. I decided to put fresh mushrooms on but they did look a bit dirty. I asked a person working there if they washed them, they said no, just wiped them. I pointed out they looked dirty, they said they were fine. I got them, shared with a friend. We looked at each other and agreed the taste was bad, gritty, and different from washed ones. We returned the salad. This was a hospital cafeteria. We did not get sick. So, as Richard ten Brink said "if you find something distasteful, simply don't eat it!". – user33210 Mar 3 '15 at 7:53

Alton Brown, Harold McGee, Robert Wolke, and Kenji Lopez Alt have all tested washing mushrooms by weighing them pre and post wash, and found they absorb an insignificant amount of water that does not significantly affect cooking time. Both McGee and Wolke tested by soaking the mushroom for five minutes rather than simply rinsing. They all encourage washing mushrooms. Several suggest washing them, using a salad spinner, and then cooking slightly longer. For example, Lopez Alt's testing found they absorbed only about 2% of their total weight which translated to an extra 15 to 30 seconds of cooking time.

McGee describes his process 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.

Wash right before using - not storage. Also, as Wolke notes, mushrooms are already mostly water to begin with - 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.

Honestly, I would wash them. I don't care if that affects the taste slightly. Eating unwashed fruits and vegetables (especially raw) is a risk factor for many diseases such as listeria, salmonella and toxoplasmosis. Don't soak the mushrooms to wash them, give them a quick rinse under warm water, and use your fingers to clean the dirt off them. Then pat dry with a towel, and let air dry, before adding them to your dish.

  • Thank You, I agree with you. Do try my recipe for boiling the mushrooms with a lot of salt, little water. quick boil, and put in fridge, eat with sour cream, delicious. – user33210 Mar 1 '15 at 10:31
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    I don't think that there is a health risk regarding microbiological aspects. Cultured mushrooms are typically grown on sterilized substrate. – Ching Chong Mar 1 '15 at 13:55

Most mushrooms are not grown in manure but rather in dirt under a layer of peat moss. Mushrooms consist mostly of water so rinsing them quickly and drying with paper towel will not change the flavor or browning time.

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    A miniscule amount of water content can change the behaviour of an ingredient significantly... we all consist mostly of water but drinking or not drinking a pint of it can make a big difference to how palatable we are :) – rackandboneman May 5 '17 at 11:21

I thought everyone peeled mushroom caps with a pairing knife. That's how I was taught to clean them. It's a bit labor intensive, but usually the number of mushrooms used is not that large. Holding the stem with a paper towel usually cleans it, or simply cut the stem and do not use it.

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    Thank you for sharing your way of cleaning mushrooms but unfortunately I usually use at least a pound or more. It would take too much time but it is a good way to clean them. I do use the stems by the way. – user33210 Mar 1 '15 at 22:09
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    Peeling mushrooms is not universal practice at all... – rackandboneman May 5 '17 at 11:19
  • Definitely a fine dining practice though. – soup4life Apr 24 at 17:14

1st of all, I would say to rinse mushrooms if dirt is visible or just to get rid of any loose debris. In reality just water to rinse, it does nothing but remove loose dirt, bacteria and other pathogens that are stuck on the fruit will not be "washed off" the fruit is not much "cleaner" by rinsing. Now mushrooms, they are a bit different....they are actually anti-microbial, that means that they actually kill most bacteria so they will have far less live bacteria on them. The important thing to understand here is that our ancestors have done it for ages...the problem with us now in the future is that we try to kill EVERY bacteria...we are scare of getting sick. when need to build up immunity like the good old days. we don't need to disinfect EVERYTHING...some bacteria is actually good for your health.

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    However safe or unsafe it may be to eat unwashed mushrooms, the "our ancestors have done it for ages" argument is not a good one: plenty of our ancestors got severely ill or died from foodborn illness, and plenty of people still do. – Cascabel Mar 27 '17 at 21:04

I also believe that we have so many kids who have allergies now because of all this washing, sterilising stuff. We have become almost paranoid. Mushrooms are grown in sterilised compost. People have collected them from woodlands for centuries. The trick is to know the edible ones from the poisonous. Basic cleaning is enough. If you peel them, you throw out the best taste and many of the vitamins. I don't eat grit but a bit of dirt never hurt anyone. Chefs have to have qualifications in food hygiene and they know what tastes best.

  • Mary, welcome to Seasoned Advice! I think that editing your post could help it be a better answer (see guidelines here: cooking.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-answer). As the question is about why chefs are adamant about not washing mushrooms, you could (as an example) answer by pointing out the last part of your answer [chefs have to ensure food safety], and then cite some resources to back up that position. As it is, your answer is anecdotal, and does not specifically point to provable facts, which are good when addressing a food-safety question. – Paul Beverage Dec 6 at 4:50

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