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Cleaning mushrooms

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I just bought a pound of shiitakes for the mushroom gravy that I'm making Christmas Eve and I'd appreciate any suggestions on how to clean them since I've never found any way that really works.

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    Brendan Taylor

    using a damp paper towel to rub off the dirt works. any more water, and you're talking waterlogged and slimy.

    1. I have good luck using a soft brush. I have heard that you can put mushrooms in a collander and spray with water and it doesn't waterlog them, but I've never had the nerve to try it!

      1. I saw a Good Eats episode on mushrooms where Alton Brown did one of his experiments. The end result was that a quick wash in water is okay just don't soak. He weighed the mushrooms before and after washing in water. A very minute amount of water was absorbed.

        2 Replies
        1. re: ChrisKC

          I can second this. A quick rinse under running water (hold the 'shrooms upright so no water gets in) works just fine. I do it when I don't want to spend the time on the paper towel method or when they are really dirty.

          1. re: ChrisKC
            Janet A. Zimmerman

            In The Curious Cook, Harold McGee talks about mushrooms and water and the kitchen lore that they absorb tons of water if soaked. He then goes on to an experiment wherein he weighed a bunch (23, to be precise) mushrooms before and after soaking in water for 5 minutes. Before, they weighed 252 grams. After he soaked them for five minutes, then drained and blotted off the surface moisture, they weighed 258 grams. So 23 mushrooms absorbed about 6 grams or half a tablespoon of water among them -- one-sixteenth of a teaspoon each.

            I now wash my mushrooms this way: Since they're usually already in a plastic produce bag, I just fill the bag with water, swish them around a little and dump into a colander to drain. Then I dump them out onto a few paper towels and blot them. It's easy and it gets virtually all the grit off.

          2. I learned this from my mom who cannot stand dirt. You peel the mushrooms. Mushrooms are really easy to peel, just use a small knive or just your fingernail to scrap at the edge of the cap, then peel back the top layer. This way it takes away the dirt without touching any water.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Wendy Lai

              By peeling, you will remove the dirt, but you will also lose a lot of flavor and particularly the aroma which is concentrated in the outer layer.

            2. FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH --- I recently attended a cooking class here in Ft. Lauderdale taught by a well respected French cook (and cookbook author). He maintained that he never washed or even wiped off mushrooms. His explanation being that all of the shrooms sold in grocery stores or produce markets have been sterilized; thus ridding them of all microorganisms. I would be interested in hearing comments on this subject.By the way efdee,he was in the process of making a mushroom gravy for Chateaubriand and needless to say, when he made the shroom statement, many gasps were heard throughout the room.

              2 Replies
              1. re: FrankT

                My ex-husband made me a mushroom dish from unwashed mushrooms once.

                Crunch, crunch. Horse manure anyone?

                1. re: ironmom

                  But ---- sterilized manure!

              2. After too many years of delicately brushing mushrooms clean with moist paper towels, I can tell you it's a waste of time.

                They may technically be sponges, but they take a good while to absorb water.

                Just thow them into a bowl of cold water, give them a quick swish to get any of the dirt off and drain them.

                It's dead simple, and the result is, arguably anyway, better than a mushroom brush. Certainly, it's a whole lot easier.

                1. There are different ways of cleaning for different mushrooms. You got shitake, which usually have dirt on the the tip of the root only. I would snip the harden and soiled roots off, wash these parts as heartily as you wish. They will make a rich broth, so don't throw them away. Just don't forget to take them out at the end as they are not fun for most people to chew. If you have one of those disposable tea filter bag you can put all the roots in the bag when cooking and then discard when done.

                  The caps and stems only needs brushing.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: HLing

                    My experience is that the stems of shitakes are tough and not worth the trouble.The caps are the aforementioned sponges.Just out of curiousity I tried the washing in the plastic bag method and ended up wringing out most of them YECH,I'll stick to a brush or a damp paper towel in a pinch.

                    1. re: Jed

                      After trimming the roots (not the stems) off my shiitake mushrooms I washed them briefly using the plastic bag method too. Then I wrapped them in a towel to dry off. The sliced caps and stems stayed kind of tough even after cooking much longer than the recipe called for. If I make this sauce again I won't wet the mushrooms or use the stems. There wasn't much dirt on them anyway once the bottoms were cut off.

                  2. I like a dry cloth towel and sometimes moisten it with lemon juice.

                    1. Mushrooms are mostly water. The little extra that gets in if you wash them is unimportant. They do feel a little slimy but they sauté up just fine. Of course, if you are putting them directly into a liquid (a soup?) there is no problem.
                      The black stuff on cultivated mushrooms is not dirt. It is a compost on which the mushrooms are grown, usually in the dark. The nature of the compost is the trade secret of each grower. No mushrooms are sterilized.
                      Truffles somnetimes come encrusted with dirt. My toothbrush does very little. I scrub them thoroughly and have no problems. Indeed, if the truffle is a little dried out, this reinvigorates it.