America's Test Kitchen LogoCook's Country LogoCook's Illustrated Logo

Do You Need to Remove Mushroom Stems?

The short answer? It depends.

Published Oct. 6, 2022.

Whether you’re already a fan of fresh mushrooms or looking to expand your horizons, bringing home a fresh tray of unfamiliar fungi can be a bit daunting. 

You might be used to removing the stems and slicing up the caps before using them in your dish. But it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Sure, you should be removing the stems before stuffing cremini caps or grilling portobellos. What about other varieties? Are there times when you not only can, but should, eat the stems? 

Sign up for the Notes from the Test Kitchen newsletter

Our favorite tips and recipes, enjoyed by 2 million+ subscribers!

All mushrooms (and mushroom stems!) are not created equal. Depending on the type, mushrooms vary greatly in appearance and taste. For example, the king oyster’s stem is considered the best part of the mushroom, but portobello stems get tough and woody. 

Though you can't overcook mushrooms (really!), the stems and caps cook up quite differently depending on the type of mushroom.

Why You Can't Overcook Mushrooms

So, before you begin slicing up a batch of white buttons for your next Green Bean Casserole, you should know how to prepare these fungi for cooking. Here’s a helpful guide on which mushrooms need their stems removed and how to do it.

Remove the Stem

These stems cook up tough and woody. It’s best to remove them to showcase the tender caps.

New Release!

The Complete Modern Pantry Cookbook

When you need to improvise, capture the ethos of true pantry cooking with a unique approach: build simple dishes and combine hundreds of flavor combinations that leave you plenty of room to play (and use up what you have on hand).

Don’t Remove the Stem

Here, the stems are part of the experience. In fact, the stems are more flavorful, cooking up with a texture as similarly supple as the caps.

  • Chanterelles: These Italian natives make a fantastic Mushroom Ragu.
  • King Oysters: Simply slice off the brown end of the stem, leaving the rest intact.
  • Porcinis: These flavor powerhouses make savory gravies and boost the umami of many other sauces and soups.
  • Morels: Though commonly dried, the fresh variety is easily prepped with a good scrub. 
  • White buttons: Trim off the brown end, leaving as much of the short stem as possible.

This is a members' feature.