Should You Wash Mushrooms You're Going to Cook?

This can make all the difference between a sad and soggy mushroom or a delightfully crispy one.

Photo: donstock / Getty Images

Mushrooms can add delicious taste and texture to a variety of meals, and they're very easy to cook. Through prepping mushrooms is just as important as how you cook them, since you're not worried about flavor but safety too.

Should you wash mushrooms before cooking them? And if so, how should you do it? Here's what the experts have to say:

Should You Wash or Wipe Your Mushrooms?

It depends a little on the type of mushroom, but they should all get some sort of cleaning, with some varieties requiring longer or more extensive scrubbing than others. "All wild mushrooms should be washed and it is crucial to dry them out afterwards," says Joseph Rizza, Executive Chef of Prime & Provisions in Chicago. "Cultivated mushrooms, like buttons and portobellos can be cleaned using a dry cloth or paper towel to wipe off the excess 'dirt' they are grown in. Usually, they are cultivated in cedar," he says.

Yet, some mushrooms are dirtier than others and need more rigorous cleaning. "Wild mushrooms, like chanterelles or black trumpets, are always full of everything the forest has to offer: bugs, wood chips, pine needles," says Rizza. "So washing them thoroughly in water and then laying them out to dry on sheet pans lined with paper towels or kitchen towels for an hour or so is very important," he explains.

Dry Before Cooking

Before tossing your newly cleaned mushrooms into a wok or in a pan, make sure they are fully dry. "Since mushrooms are already high in water, about 85-95 percent, waterlogged mushrooms will develop a diluted flavor and have a rubbery and slimy texture after cooking," says Sofia Norton, RD. And that mushy texture will ruin whatever dish you're cooking. "Mushrooms should be slightly crispy and browned on the outside and tender on the inside. In other words, they need to be caramelized for maximum flavor and best texture," she says.

Plus, Don't Fret About Bacteria

If you're worried that this method isn't sanitary, bear in mind that commercial mushrooms are grown in a heat-treated compost that's practically sterile, says Norton. "Soil is heat-treated at tightly controlled temperatures to remove common plant pathogens like mold, bacteria, viruses, worms, bugs, slugs," she says. This process does not kill all microorganisms, but the majority of them, so don't fret. Plus, according to a study from the Research Group on Food of Plant Origin at the University of Zaragoza in Spain, cultivated mushrooms were found to have no traces of E. Coli or Salmonella.

What's more, cooking mushrooms also kills any remaining germs that may be lurking. "Commercial mushrooms should not be contaminated with common food pathogens like Salmonella or E. Coli, which are quite heat-resistant," says Norton. "Other less heat-resistant pathogens like cholera, botulinum toxins, and some viruses can be killed through boiling, frying, and baking," she explains. So, once the mushrooms are cooked through, you'll be safe to eat.

Related Content:

Was this page helpful?
You’ll Also Love