The Best Way To Cook Mushrooms

A lot of people tell me that they don’t like mushrooms, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they just haven’t had them cooked properly. Its true, sometimes mushrooms can turn out slimy (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), but cooking them so that they are deliciously crunchy and chewy is actually really easy. All it takes is some patience. I picked up some beautiful mushrooms while in Brighton Beach the other day, and I’ll show you just how easy it is.

First things first — clean the mushrooms. Mushrooms grow in dirt and feces, so they need to be cleaned before cooking. Don’t believe the urban myth about not washing mushrooms; it’s got to be done. Give them a quick rinse just before cooking, and then wipe them off with a paper towel to dry them and remove the dirt. In a large, shallow pan heat up some olive oil. If your mushrooms are in big pieces, cut them into chunks. Let the olive oil get really hot, and then add the mushrooms. Now the hard part: do nothing. Let the mushrooms cook. Sure, you can give them a quick stir once they go in, to make sure that all of them are touching oil, but then walk away. Just leave them alone. You don’t even have to watch them, but you should listen to them. yes, listen to them. You will hear a change in the sound of the cooking mushrooms as the liquid cooks out. When you hear that noise (and you will notice a difference), stir the mushrooms again so the uncooked parts on top are now on the bottom, where the oil is. The mushrooms should be browning nicely at this point.

You see, mushrooms have a lot of moisture in them, and the trick to cooking them well is to release as much of that moisture as possible. Notice how the volume of the mushrooms has decreased dramatically after lots of cooking — that’s all water weight. Once you’re at this stage, with everything brown and crispy, add some salt. You shouldn’t add salt any earlier, because the salt will pull the liquid out of the mushrooms too quickly and they’ll end up braising in their own juices. (That’s how you get slimy mushrooms, by the way.) After adding the salt, stir everything and let the mushrooms cook some more. Yes, some more. After a minute or two, you’re finished. Pull them out of the pan and enjoy them. Mushrooms are packed with umami, the savory flavor that we humans crave, and making them salty and crispy only adds to that. Follow this method with any type of fresh mushroom, even the ubiquitous white button mushroom, and it will make a mushroom lover out of you.


15 thoughts on “The Best Way To Cook Mushrooms

  1. Hrm.

    Ok, pretty good, however I disagree with some things and think they could lead to bad habits in and mess ups in the kitchen.

    The salt bit. Season them, the amount of water is negligible and you might forget.

    Also, a lot of chefs say to not crowd the pan. Your pan is pretty crowded. That steams your mushrooms and you’ll get steamed mushroom salt or not. However, if you keep cooking them, you can cook the water out no matter how you crowd or steam them early on. Just adjust the heat down a bit.

    Finishing. Honestly, a mushroom like Chanterelle is pretty hard to improve. However, I like to (because Alice Waters and Thomas Keller both have brainwashed me) that there are always opportunities to bring out the best in your ingredients.

    Cranking the heat at the end, adding a few cubes of butter (and by a few I mean a lot) and get it nice and foamy, add some crushed garlic and a decent size srpig (3-4″ lots of green leaves) nice herb like thyme, savory or dare I say it lavender, at the end.

    If you are using open flame, tilt your pan and push the herbs and the mushrooms up to the top of the pan and using a large spoon ‘arosé’ or baste the mushrooms like you would a turkey. If you are using an electric flat stove, then leave in flat and crank the heat and stir more. Same results.

    Hit that with a splash of your favorite deep vinegar like sherry and let it all cook down to a glaze.

    Drain over a sheet pan with a grate or use a colander or chinois. Pull out the herbs and garlic and serve.

    You could additionally add the juice and fat back to the pan and crank again and add some wine or stock and emulsify more chunks of butter and you’d have a blammo sauce.


    1. @Wayne — well, you’re the expert! i sometimes like to finish with a squeeze of lemon, as i find vinegar too harsh. i’ve never had success with the arosé technique (self-taught from watching tv), but i agree that butter would be great.


    1. @Rodzilla — i have an innate skepticism of any cooking technique that uses the microwave (except for melting chocolate)… i think i need to get past this unreasonable prejudice.


  2. Lemon is nice. Some acid is the point. It doesn’t have to be a lot, just enough to brighten up.

    Arosé takes practice for sure. TV is not always the best teacher. Peace.


  3. I was the same way for a long time, but the results are just as good if not better than using a pan – and it’s more convenient.

    Chocolate is actually probably the one item I would still be hesitant about using the microwave for – unless it’s super cheap stuff, then I don’t care to temper properly.


  4. Altho you couldnt pay me enough to turn on my oven right now i lovelovelove roasted mushrooms…. And yeah, if you start with gorgeous chanterelles you’re already halfway to fabulous!


  5. Hi,
    Every time I fry mushrooms I always end up with them swimming in their own juices. If this happens should I simply drain out the excess liquid (and if so, at what point when cooking?) – or will this minus their flavour?


    1. @Jessica — try turning up the heat and cooking until the juice evaporates/concentrates. stir every once in a while so the mushrooms don’t burn. let me know how it turns out.


  6. Ok.. So I just made some then (and ate them). Although, not really a success! I think I had the heat too high – and/or didn’t stir enough – as I was waiting to hear the change in noise, but it didn’t happen, and when I checked they were pretty much black on one side!

    And this time there was no liquid! I think it was due to using shiitake mushrooms?? Anyway, will just have to try again!


  7. Yeh, I think I’ve got the knack of it now! Am living in Sichuan (China) atm, and asked a friend to teach me how to cook some classic dishes – so I know now the secret to making things well (and tasty); lots of oil!!!!! Plus heat, and salt…


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