Say goodbye to soggy mushrooms by avoiding these six simple cooking pitfalls.

By Isadora Baum
July 17, 2020
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Mushrooms are a delicious veggie for stirring into soups, sautéing for pasta dishes, or replacing meat for a hearty plant-based burger. But the beloved mushroom can easily end up ruining a dish, instead of improving it, if not cooked properly. From incorrect prepping to poor ingredient pairings, these are six mistakes you'll want to avoid for tasty mushrooms.

Here are a few do's and don'ts for cooking mushrooms, as explained by experts:

Salting Right Away

"Adding salt before throwing mushrooms in the pan or immediately after will draw out the water from them, making them simmer in their own liquids," says Sofia Norton, RD. This can result in rubbery and tough mushrooms with little flavor. "Add salt after they've caramelized near the end of cooking," she says, which will help them have the taste and texture you're looking for.

Not Cooking Long Enough

"Properly cooking mushrooms on the stovetop requires more heat and time than most people give," says Nick Schmuck, chef and partner at Walden. "Mushrooms have a ton of liquid in them, and the real flavor comes out when that liquid is cooked out. Be careful not to over-cook, but give them enough time to bleed out all of their juice in the cooking process," he says. It will be very obvious when they are no longer giving off liquid. And after that point you can get some delicious caramelization if you cook them a few more minutes, he says.

Not Washing Them Properly

Not washing mushrooms the right way can make them soggy, says Schmuck. "Certain kinds of mushrooms require washing but mushrooms soak up water quickly and become soggy," he says. "Always wash your mushrooms whole, never after cut. And fill a bowl with water first, then dunk mushrooms and quickly wash, they shouldn't be in the water for more than 10-15 seconds," he says. Afterwards, lay them out on a paper towel-lined baking sheet for an hour to dry back out.

Not Using Enough Oil

Mushrooms soak up everything, so they often require a lot of oil at the start, says Schmuck. Get your pan nice and hot, then put oil and the mushrooms. "Add more oil until there is a small amount remaining in the pan. After a few minutes, your pan will likely be filled with mushroom juice," he says. "Keep cooking the mushrooms through until all the juice is evaporated, by this point some oil will come back out of the mushrooms and you will actually be caramelizing the [food] this is the part that really builds flavor," he says. If you're fancy, finish with a little butter and a sprig of thyme for the last minute of cooking, he suggests.

Sautéing on High or Low Heat

Don't go too low or high on heat, which can make mushrooms over- or under-cooked. Think right in the middle. "Medium-high heat is the way to go with mushrooms. You want their liquids to slowly evaporate while they caramelize," says Norton. High heat can burn mushrooms, while low heat will make them cook in their own liquid, she says.

You also want to be mindful of the pan. "A cast-iron skillet or another thick pan that can hold heat well is best for mushrooms," says Norton. Mushrooms need time and lots of heat to cook well, and a thinner pan might not heat evenly or predictably, so using a thicker pan will help you avoid burning or undercooking the mushrooms.

Slicing Them Too Thin

Thinly sliced mushrooms are great as a pizza topping, but you don't want to cook super thin mushrooms. "When using them for soups, stews, sauces, and baking, cut them to at least ½ an inch thickness. Mushrooms tend to shrink during cooking, so thicker pieces help offset this and give body and texture to your meals," says Norton. What's more, smaller mushrooms can even be prepared whole, while oyster mushrooms are great torn instead of sliced, she says.

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