Hate Soggy Mushrooms? An Expert Chef Says You May Be Storing Them Incorrectly

Few things excite me as much as shopping at my local farmerโ€™s market every Sunday. Although the vendors rarely changeโ€”I have my favoritesโ€”the selection is never the same, and nothing brings me more joy than discovering new ingredients to play with in my kitchen every single time. (Hence, I recently ended up with one too many cartons of trumpet mushrooms than expected.)

But mushrooms are much more forgiving, unlike the perfectly ripe avocados I picked upโ€”which have a maximum shelf life of about a day before they brown in the blink of an eye. That is if you know how to store them correctly.

Ahead, Michael Handal, chef-instructor of culinary arts at the Institute of Culinary Education’s New York City campus, shares a few foolproof tips for keeping this nutrient-dense veggie (yes, mushrooms are technically considered a vegetable1) nice and plump for days on end.

How to wash mushrooms

According to Handal, the best way to wash mushrooms is, well, you just donโ€™t (at least you don’t want to submerge them in water fully). โ€œIn general, mushrooms are better served by not washing them before cooking,” Handal says. “[Most commercial-grade] mushrooms are grown in carefully controlled indoor environments and are handled under conditions that prevent contamination from [harmful] pathogens.” Introducing water into the mix can disrupt the spongy and porous texture of certain types of mushrooms. In fact, according to Americaโ€™s Test Kitchen, after submerging mushrooms with exposed gillsโ€”think oyster mushroomsโ€”in water for just one minute, they absorbed as much as 25 percent of their weight in liquid.

Handal says the better way to โ€œwashโ€ mushrooms is by simply brushing off any dirt. โ€œThe most common reason proposed for washing mushrooms is to remove the compost used to grow the mushroom,” he says. “It would be enough to simply brush away this material with a dry pastry brush or, at most, wipe with a damp paper towel.โ€

Keep in mind that cleaning mushrooms before storing them is unnecessaryโ€”a little dusting right before cooking them should be more than enough. The less moisture, the longer theyโ€™ll hold up. You can see where this is going, right?

How do you keep mushrooms fresh longer?

For maximum freshness, Handal recommends storing fresh mushrooms in the original container you bought them in the refrigerator’s main compartment. โ€œThere, they will receive proper circulation of cool air. The produce compartment or crisper bin does not allow for proper airflow,โ€ he saysโ€”the ultimate goal: Key moisture under control to prevent a soggy mushroom disaster.

Meanwhile, if the mushrooms are purchased loose, Handal says itโ€™s best to transfer them to a brown paper bag before stashing them in the fridge. โ€œCarefully place the mushrooms inside the bag and seal it by folding the top several times,” he says. “The bag will allow for cool airflow and moisture control.”

Handal also recommends avoiding meal-prepping mushrooms before storing them in the fridge. โ€œFresh mushrooms should be stored whole and not sliced; slicing will cause the mushrooms to oxidize and brown substantially faster than their whole counterparts,โ€ he says.

How long will mushrooms last in the fridge?

As a rule of thumb, to ensure maximum freshness and taste, Handal says mushrooms stored in the fridge should be used within seven days. To reiterate, avoid washing them until right before use to help limit the moisture exposure as much as possible and the growth of any harmful bacteria due to trapped humidity.

On the flip side, dried mushrooms will last much longer. To dry mushrooms, first, clean them thoroughly to remove any dirt or debris. Then, either use a food dehydrator or lay them out on a baking sheet in a single layer and dry them in the oven at a low temperature (around 140ยฐF or 60ยฐC) until they are crisp and completely dry, which usually takes several hours.

โ€œDried mushrooms should remain quite usable for six months or longer when held in a tightly-sealed plastic bag or plastic dry food container,โ€ Handal says. Plus, thereโ€™s no need to freeze them either.

Can you freeze mushrooms raw?

If you arenโ€™t planning on using mushrooms within seven days from when you got them, itโ€™s best to freeze them. For optimal results, Handal recommends cooking themโ€””a light sautรฉ or fast oven roast,โ€ he saysโ€”before freezing them, as freezing mushrooms raw may compromise their taste and texture once thawed.ย  โ€œWashing the mushrooms and then freezing them in their raw state would allow them to become soggy and wet when defrosted,โ€ Handal says.

Whatโ€™s the best way to prep mushrooms for cooking?

Once youโ€™re ready to cook your mushrooms, all youโ€™ll need is a pair of sharp knives. โ€œTrim away dry stem ends and the fringed areas on the ends of the mushroom caps with a sharp knife,โ€ Handal says. According to him, a paring knife or small utility knife should do the job nicely. Remember: Always keep your knives sharpโ€”a kitchen safety best practice.

Handal notes that sturdier varieties, like white mushrooms, are very versatileโ€”they can be sliced, diced, quartered, you name it, depending on what the mushroom recipe calls for. On the other hand, oyster mushrooms only require a slight paring of the stem end and a gentle tearing of the mushroomโ€™s top section to prep them for cooking.

Now, if youโ€™re working with portobello mushrooms, youโ€™ll need to enlist the help of a small spoon for the best results. โ€œPortobello mushrooms, of any size, benefit from a removal of the dark gills underneath the cap,” Handal says. “Simply scraping away the gills with the side of a teaspoon will do the trick. This will also greatly enhance the preparation of the mushroom whether it goes on to be sliced, sautรฉed, or left whole for grilling.”

Once youโ€™re all prepped and ready to cook, the world is your oyster (mushroom). โ€œIn general, mushrooms of all types are greatly appreciated in a wide range of recipes, from a simple sautรฉ for a fast pasta, to grilled mushrooms to go with a beautiful porterhouse steak, to a classic French boeuf bourguignon. Enjoying them is key,โ€ Handal says.

Learn how to make a delicious vegan beef bourguignon recipe in mere minutes:

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  1. Agarwal, Sanjiv, and Victor L Fulgoni Iii. โ€œNutritional impact of adding a serving of mushrooms to USDA Food Patterns โ€“ a dietary modeling analysis.โ€ย Food & nutrition researchย vol. 65 10.29219/fnr.v65.5618. 5 Feb. 2021, doi:10.29219/fnr.v65.5618

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