by John Ryan
How to Select Mushrooms
First, look at the caps. Then look at the stems and gills.
& More Mushroom Tips
- Avoid mushrooms with "bruises" or ones that are shriveling. Avoid any mushroom that feels slimy.
- When mushrooms are really fresh and haven't been handled much, you may see a papery sort of fuzz on them. That's good.
- The brown dust on portobellos that looks like cocoa powder is the spores from a portobello that was sitting above. The spores are fine, don't try to wash them off.
The Stems and Gills
- You want stems that are firm and have a uniform color. When mushrooms start getting old, their stems start looking like rotted wood. If the mushroom is open and you can see the gills, you want dry, beautiful, tissue-like gills.
Two Personal Tips
- If you are grilling portobellos, pick ones with the smallest stems. The stems are good, but a lot of people throw them out anyway.
- Pick mushrooms that feel light. This is especially true with portobellos. Pick a few up; some will feel heavier than others. Since you are paying for them by weight, pick the lightest ones.
- A paper bag in the refrigerator. Period.
- Plastic traps moisture and encourages sliminess. (I know, supermarkets wrap mushrooms in plastic. But look closely, you'll find that the plastic has holes in it.)
How Do You Wash Them?
One of my favorite mushroom-washing anecdotes comes from a story by Alan Richman. In GQ magazine a couple years ago he wrote about taking classes at the a cooking school in France run by the legendary Paul Bocuse. One of the things he learned was that "Washing mushrooms is perfectly all right. I can't tell you how happy I am about this. I never serve mushrooms when friends come over, because one of them invariably launches into a diatribe when I wash my mushrooms instead of brushing each one clean with a dry cloth. Chef Antoine says wiping mushrooms is ridiculous. 'You have time in the United States for things like that,' he says."
In light of that, what can I say? But everybody agrees on two things: Don't wash them until you are ready to cook or eat them, and don't let them sit in water.
As for washing, if you can get away with it, just brush off dirt. But if your mushrooms are dirty, rub the dirt off under running water.
More About Mushrooms
Both chef and musician, John Ryan wrote the Just Good Food blog from 1996 through 2001.
Just Good Food Archive
This page created 1997. Modified August 2007.