Mushrooms vary wildly in appearance, but there are a few sure-fire ways to ensure you’re buying the best, no matter the type.
You’ll need two things: a keen eye and your nose.
Yes, you really want to go around sticking your nose in the produce at the grocery store. Here are a few tips for shopping for mushrooms.
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How to Shop for Mushrooms
Mushrooms are delicate food items with a short shelf life. The most important characteristic is how they smell. You really can smell the difference between a good mushroom and one that is past its prime.
Mushrooms should smell earthy and sweet but not unpleasant. Avoid fishy smelling mushrooms at all costs. They also should be pretty uniform in texture and color—they shouldn’t have any dry or discolored bits.
It’s best to buy them loose so you can smell them, and then keep that bag open (don’t tie it up!) once you get them home. Otherwise, their ethylene gas will be trapped inside and will speed up the rotting process.
How to Clean Mushrooms
Contrary to popular belief, you actually can wash mushrooms. It just depends on the variety.
Mushrooms without exposed gills (such as white button and cremini) don’t soak up much water, so you can wash them. The easiest way to wash them is by using a salad spinner. Make sure you wash these mushrooms before you cut them, though. If you wash them after cutting, the exposed mushroom flesh will absorb water like a sponge.
Types of Mushrooms
OK, so you know how to shop for, store, and clean mushrooms. But with so many varieties, how can you tell the difference? And what should you make with them?
- White button: Small, basic mushroom with a neutral flavor. Great grilled or in Beef Stroganoff.
- Cremini: Small portobellos with a bit of the flavor notes from their mature counterparts. They’re delicious in a gratin.
- Portobello: These have a richer taste than cremini with a more pronounced umami flavor. You can purchase them with or without the stems since they will be removed and discarded during preparation. Meaty portobellos make a perfect burger substitute or a vegetarian Mushroom Bourguignon.
- Shiitake: A little smoky with a rich, meaty flavor. Make sure the caps are nice and thick. If the edges are slightly curled, even better; it’s a sign of freshness.
- Oyster: As the name suggests, these have a briny, supersavory texture.
- King Oyster: This is the giant counterpart of the oyster, also known as king trumpet. Their size and texture make them the perfect centerpiece in a vegetarian dish such as King Trumpet Mushrooms with Smoked Paprika Vinaigrette.
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- Morels: These have a uniquely spongy texture and nutty flavor. They can be purchased fresh or dried, but if purchasing fresh make sure to shake the mushroom out or tap it against your palm to get rid of any little bugs that can be hiding inside.
- Maitake: Also known as hen-of-the-woods, these mushrooms have a light, feathery texture with a hint of a smoky flavor. They make a delicious side or main, such as our Sautéed Mushrooms with Red Wine and Rosemary.
- Chanterelles: Unexpected yet pleasant fruity taste. Delicious sautéed simply with butter to let the flavor shine. Along with portobello, they make a perfect Mushroom Ragu.
- Enoki: These have a crisp texture and mild flavor. Because they don’t always need to be cooked, they’re perfect as a finisher to a bowl of soup where the warmth of the broth softens them slightly.
- Wood Ear: Pleasantly chewy, tougher texture with a nutty flavor. These are delicious in a stir-fry.