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Cleaning Mushrooms - to rinse or...?

Some years back Cook's Illustrated did a test on the best way to clean mushrooms; they concluded that a quick rinse was just fine as long as the mushrooms weren't left soaking in water.

Since reading that article, if I need to prepare a quantity of mushrooms, say more than a few for salad, I now rinse them. But even a rinse doesn't get rid of the mushroom soil that clings to them - I still need to handle each mushroom individually by rinsing it under running water and then rubbing with a kitchen towel to remove every last bit of mushroom soil. Other than removing superficial bits of soil, rinsing doesn't seem to work very well either.

So how do you clean mushrooms? What's the best way?

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  1. I've always just brushed them off with a clean kitchen towel...plus when I buy regular whole white button mushrooms at the store, I try to choose a box that has the cleanest mushrooms. I'm not kidding, some of them are dirtier than others.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Val

      I do that too - I rarely use water.

    2. I put the whole mushrooms in a colander and put that in a large basin, run cool water over and with my fingers .....what's the word Rachael uses....juzje them in the water for a few minutes. This usually gets rid of most of the clinging soil. If needed, I have a mushroom brush to remove any soil left. I always rinse mushrooms.

      1. Your way plus,I use $ store,cheap synthetic paintbrushes instead of paper towel.Toss around in a large amount of H2O,dry on a towel.
        Val is correct,soil is a major variable.Bed raised shitake/portobello dirty,log propigated
        ones are so clean by comparison.

        1. I used to believe for a long time that mushrooms should never be rinsed or even immersed in water *gasp*, as they soak a lot of it up. Which -- as I have found out a few years ago -- turns out to be total B.S.

          A few days ago, I bought a lb. of fresh chanterelles, something I've never done, because those are some dirty lil bastards. BUT, they are in season, and instead of having to pay through the roof for them at a resto, I decided to go for it.

          I had to rinse/wash/toss them around about three times -- first in a colander, then moved them into my salad spinner, rinsed and soaked them again for a bit, rinsed one more time, and spun them dry. They were pretty clean by then, and the subsequent pasta dish was dreamy.

          1. Rub vigorously under running water until clean.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              Agree that water is OK, but only if they are very fresh. It seems like they absorb water as they age out a bit.

            2. I have always trimmed the dry ends of the stalk, tossed them in a colander and rinsed with the faucet sprayer. I find it does the best job.

              There was one cooking demonstration I went to where the chef was preparing white button mushrooms by peeling off a layer of skin rather than wash them. It was the silliest thing I had ever seen and took her at least 15 minutes to clean a lb of shrooms.

              1 Reply
              1. re: NE_Elaine

                The only time I peel is when I haven't used them fast enough, they've gotten a few brown spots, and they're going into a dish uncooked like a salad where it wouldn't be visually appealing. Even then, it's only when it's being served to someone other than me.

                My general rule of thumb is: foraged mushrooms, rinse and spin repeatedly (little buggers are gritty), store bought, inspect, trim and wipe.

              2. Well, the little black specks clinging there are organic matter or the mushrooms wouldn't be there. We don't experiment with them.

                We use a small, soft mushroom brush and carefully scrub all the black specks off, trim the ends, rinse again and then proceed. Doesn't seem to matter if the gills are open or not, this works for us and the result is perfect, raw or cooked. if there is any benefit in taste by not rinsing, I think it's it's minuscule.

                1 Reply
                1. re: DockPotato

                  An older food expert I used to work with always said mushrooms are grown in manure (he used a different word) and laughed that people ate them at all. As a mushroom addict, I do cook and eat them but also like to get that stuff off first: A quick spritz of water and rub with fingers, then I always cook them in a dry pan to start until they brown, so any water absorbed evaporates quickly enough.

                2. i rub them gently with a washcloth under running water. but i have to admit i've never put quite this much thought into alternatives.

                  1. I have a handy-dandy bowl with a colander insert (bought at a Korean market for a $1.50) that I always use to clean mushrooms. I dump the mushrooms into the bowl/colander, fill with water, swirl the 'shrooms around the water vigorously, lift up the colander insert and dump the water. Repeat as necessary.

                    1. I could be wrong, but I thought it was Julia Child's method I was following by momentarily dunking my trimmed mushrooms into a bowl of quite salty water, swishing them around very fast and quickly pulling them out by handfuls onto tea towels, leaving the dirty water behind then lightly rubbing dry. Key words momentarily, quickly, very fast.

                      1. I chastise them. sternly.

                        water is never bad and if they're a little aged and dry - so much the better, they're moist little buggers.

                        morwen: foraged? part of me is terrified and part wants to be along, like the first time I had morels (I was convinced we'd offed ourselves, but they tasted so darn good).

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: hill food

                          I only go after the two kinds that I know- morels and what we call puff balls (don't know the correct name). Morels are easy because they look like alien brains and puff balls look like small creamy solid footballs (only newly sprouted-don't eat them when they're about to hit the puff stage or after, then they're nasty and will make you sick.). Good mushroom foragers who know more edible species and are willing to pass on their lore are hard to find.

                          I find it interesting that morel gatherers guard knowledge of the location of their patches just as jealously as ginseng gatherers guard theirs.

                          I hit the morel motherload once. An apt I had in an old victorian surrounded by ancient pines in a small town yielded pounds of morels literally at the bottom of my stairs and around the immediate perimeter of the house, No one else in the building knew what they were or wanted them so besides my son and I getting to feast we were able to sell off the bounty to a local restaurant.

                        2. Like my Father's Mother did, I stand there with a paper towel and a bowl of mushrooms sitting in water. And I take each one out, and I polish it clean. It's torture...or therapy, depending on my mood.
                          Once they air dry a bit I can slice and proceed.

                          1. Thanks for all the responses. I see now that I was being much too gentle with my mushrooms, but also that there seems to be no way around handling each mushroom individually after the rinsing. Next time I'll rough them up a bit more (but never peel them, uh unh, no way)!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: janniecooks

                              Again, just wash away. They don't absorb water!

                            2. The creminis I buy at the grocery store are loaded with "soil". I do wash them. After all we know what that soil is. Compost made with horse manure. Sterilized or not I'm washing.

                              1. I usually just flush the package for 20 seconds or so in the sink. Whole portabellos less time. The smaller mushrooms take the quick shower in the sink. I'll even spray them with the hose attachment on the sink if they're dirty and I'm eating them raw. If I'm cooking them then cleaning is just a quick thing to remove excess dirt.

                                I don't think they absorb a lot of water unless you're soaking them for more than about half a minute. Correct me if I'm wrong on that though.

                                1. jfood washes all mushrooms. Furst he looks for the cleanest package or tries to weed out the dirty ones if bulk. The he places oall of them in a collander and uses the hoes to wash them down. Then he takes them individually and runs them under water and used the nail onhis thumb to get any dirt that is not cooperating.

                                  1. I brush all the soil off first, with a basting brush. Then, I put them in a collander and quickly rinse them with running water.

                                    1. I do the same thing as Gio. I rinse them in a colander just before using them.

                                      If you are just real picky about having every spec of dirt off of them, you will have to use a vegetable brush as well.

                                      When I use them, I am usually sauteing them so I nuke them in the microwave in a bowl with plastic wrap on top. It removes most of the water so they brown nicely. I then strain the water and use it in the sauce.

                                      1. I think it's a fallacy to say do not wash...they are filthy and should be washed. Jacques Pepin says to always wash mushrooms "at the last moment" before using them.

                                        1. If you take a piece of mushroom and rub it between your fingers you'll notice it disintegrates to basically nothing. What you're left with are wet fingers and the tiniest piece of mushroom. That's because mushrooms are 90% water. Which means, it's almost impossible for them to soak up water any more water and become water logged. For that reason, I rinse my mushrooms. It's faster than brushing/wiping mushrooms individually.

                                          Hope this helps!