How to clean mushrooms

Mushrooms develop from an intricate underground network of thread-like roots called mycelium, similar to a tree’s root structure. The mushrooms is a type of living plant unable to create its own nourishment. Indeed, in order to live, mushrooms need to draw their nourishment from other plants and organisms.

There are approximately 100,000 types of mushrooms, both edible and poisonous, which grow in gardens, parks, but especially woods, their ideal habitat at all altitudes. Among the many kinds of mushrooms, only three are the most common and most widely used in Italian kitchens, each type with its own specific appearance, taste and optimal way to clean it before adding it to recipes.

Before eating wild mushrooms, it’s always a good idea to have them inspected by an expert.

What's the best way to clean Porcini mushrooms (Boletus edulis), Chanterelles and Honey mushrooms?

Porcini mushrooms: the most common, most popular and easiest kind to clean

Porcini mushrooms are the best known, versatile and undoubtedly the most widely used in cooking. The finest examples are Funghi di Borgotaro PGI, perfect as a filling for “crespelle” or as the tasty star of autumn risotti.

  1. For mushrooms that grow directly on the ground, like porcini, cleaning starts with scraping the dirt off the end of the stem. Next, separate the head from the stem using a small, sharp knife.
  2. Gently wipe off any remaining dirt with a slightly damp cloth.
  3. Finally, place the head topside up on a cutting board and dice it or cut it into thin slices, as required by the recipe.

Chanterelles: the small yellow mushrooms

Chanterelles are short mushrooms, but they pack a lot of flavour in a few centimetres (3 to 10), they are perfect in meat or fish recipes

  1.  To use this type of mushroom, first place them in a pot of water over a flame.
  2. When the water starts to boil and the dirt sinks to the bottom of the pot, fish the mushrooms out with a slotted spoon
  3. and place them on a plate lined with kitchen paper to air dry. The chanterelles will then be ready for use.

Honey mushrooms: the rustic-flavoured kind  

Honey mushrooms grow in thick bunches at the foot of trees, both alive and dead. They vary in colour according to the type of tree they grow on, from: honey yellow when growing on mulberry trees to dark yellow on oak trees or even reddish brown on conifers. With its slightly acidulous flavour, it’s an ideal side vegetable for meat dishes, like sausage, or yellow polenta (link to Polenta: the food of bygone days).

  1. To clean honey mushrooms, cut the end off the stems and rinse them under running water.
  2. To ensure they are clean, place in a bowl of water to which baking soda has been added and leave to stand for a few minutes. Next, gently wipe off any remaining traces of dirt and dry them with a clean cloth.
  3. To eliminate all toxins contained in this type of mushrooms, boil in water to which coarse salt and lemon has been added. Once dried with a cloth, they may be used in a variety of recipes.
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How To Clean Mushrooms

Mushrooms have a spongy, rich flesh that will absorb whatever you expose them to. In fact, mushrooms are so absorbent that they're an excellent addition to any savory dish as they'll happily absorb butter, oil, stock or garlic.

To maintain great flavor capacity, clean them dry! In this guide you will learn how to clean mushrooms for your next dish.

Despite the rather difficult, damp and chilly conditions that mushrooms love, they're a fairly delicate vegetable. Purchase them whole rather than sliced, and use your mushrooms when they're fresh and the caps are tight around the stems.

Simply brush the mushrooms individually, use the paper towels to wipe off any sticky dark matter, slice and prepare.

A simple pastry brush and a little detail work with a paper towel will work to knock dirt off your fresh mushrooms.

If this seems terribly unsanitary and you just have to wash everything you cook, give your mushrooms a quick shower under the sink sprayer with no produce soap and dry them with a paper towel.

Mushrooms absorb whatever they're exposed to quite quickly, so if you add soap to your mushroom shower, you will likely eat a bit of it.

Elizabeth Passarella, who always washes her mushrooms and learned from a mushroom farmer how to wash mushrooms, these treats should never be soaked.

Simply rinse them, dry them quickly and use them up. If you refrigerate them after washing them, they will likely turn slimy too quickly for you to enjoy them.​

SEE ALSO: Do Mushrooms Go Bad?

Enjoy Them Fresh!

Button Mushrooms

Once your mushrooms are cleaned and perhaps showered, eat them up quickly. There are many cooks who find mushrooms to be slimy to cut and prepare.

Fresh mushrooms should be slightly tacky when gripped by the cap and the stem should snap when you remove it.

If your mushrooms are hard to hold onto or the stem is squishy, they don't need to be washed. Rather, those mushrooms need to be thrown away.

How To Clean Portabella or Portobello

portabella mushrooms

The spelling doesn't matter as much as how you treat the gills. Gills are the brown papery fibers inside the cap of large mushrooms.

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It's important to note that the gills are edible, but sand and dirt can hide in them and make your delicious grilled vegetarian portabella sandwich a little gritty.​

If you really like the gills, rinse the bottom of the mushroom thoroughly under the sprayer of your sink and let it dry cap up. Will this impact flavor? A bit, but it's better than crunching down on dirt.

You can also remove the gills with a spoon after you've removed the stem.

Cleaning Wild Mushrooms

Do not pick your own mushrooms in the wild unless you have access to a mushroom expert or are one yourself. The risk of poisoning is too great.

While some have morrel patches they've picked from for years and never suffered any ill effects, other fans of long walks in the woods have suffered terrible discomfort and even risked their lives after eating a poisonous mushroom.

Why risk food that can make you sick when your grocery store offers fresh, safe mushrooms?​

Final Thoughts

The best way to clean mushrooms is the method you're comfortable with. The greatest risk from mushrooms generally comes from the choice to eat wild mushrooms without benefit of a fungus expert.

Whatever method you use, eat up your mushrooms while they're firm and fresh. If you're unable to use them up, you'll find great tips on how to store mushrooms at home.

1. Get your items ready

For this tutorial, you’ll need just a few common kitchen items – a bowl of mushrooms, an empty bowl, a colander, some paper towels, a bowl of fine refined flour and, of course, some water. Set all these out so they are within easy reach when you need them.

The glass of water was used for tutorial purposes only, running water from your kitchen sink will work just fine.

2.Place the mushrooms in the colander

Depending on the size of your colander, you might want to do this in batches, but ultimately, the washing is going to be done while the mushrooms are in the colander.

4. Rub with your hands

With your hands, you are going to rub the flour into the mushrooms very lightly. The flour is basically serving as a light abrasive agent to help rid of the dirty and dark patches (in some cases). Don’t be too rough on the mushrooms, remember they are quite delicate and can easily break.

5. Rinse with water 

As soon as you are done cleaning each individual mushroom, place the colander under a tap or simply pour some water on top of the mushrooms to rinse the flour and the dirt off. Please note that mushrooms are not meant to be soaked in water as they are quite absorbent.

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7. Ta-Da! Now you have clean mushrooms

Now that you’ve got your mushrooms cleaned, feel free to chop, slice or quarter them for your salads or soups. For more on how to clean mushrooms like a pro, simply click on the video below to see how it’s done.

The Genny

If you have a generator (at least 2000W), you can get mushrooms dry using your dehydrator. This small generator really only handles one dehydrator machine well – otherwise you’ll need some earplugs. We’ve had success running the dehydrator on the genny all night long – you get used to the low hum and as long as you’ve got gas, you’re good to go. One dehydrator with 8-10 trays at 12 hours drying time doesn’t get you very far however when you’ve scored big. It’s small movement in the right direction though. 

Air Drying Hanging Racks

We have a nifty mesh hanging rack that handles a pretty serious load of shrooms. Pending the weather, this is a great way to start the moisture loss. Even during a light rainy day under a well placed tarp, it will allow your mushrooms to lose some moisture. It also speeds up drying time in the dehydrator when you get room. Both morels and spring porcinis seem to do well for several days in hanging mode – long enough to get them on to the next step.

Air Drying Trays on Heat Reflector

We recently tried using dehydrator trays on top of a heat reflecting tarp. It was a warm, sunny day and this really added a nice bump to the drying process. And why not let those shrooms soak up some Vitamin D ?

I’m not sure exactly how much it sped up the process, but this extra step did seem to help out a fair bit.

This is no joke – often you are out ‘in the woods’ or at a campground near a very small town. We travel with 3 dehydrators, so all we really need is some electricity and we’re in business. Last week we ‘rented’ an outlet from a local business in Prospect, Oregon to dry 20 trays of mushrooms. It was awesome. The folks could not have been nicer, and they were happy to have a few extra bucks for a day of electricity. People are always curious about your find – it’s a good way to make friends.

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