Here, you will find everything I learned about cleaning and storing mushrooms from years of trial and error.
Although mushrooms are such a popular food item in our everyday diet, many people still struggle when it comes to cleaning or storing them.
In this article, I would like to address some of the most asked questions about fungi:
- Should I wash mushrooms?
- How to store them once I have washed them?
- Can raw mushrooms be frozen?
- and more...
Here are some hacks, tips, and tricks!
Should Mushrooms Be Washed?
In general, mushrooms do not require washing. Washing mushrooms will make them soak up unnecessary water, making them harder to cook and could turn them funky and slimy if not cooked straight away. Gently brushing them instead is a better way to prepare them for cooking.
Let me expand on that little bit more below:
There are two schools of thought here, with many people who believe that mushrooms should never be washed and that the easiest method of cleaning them should be with a cloth or a brush. A simple brush-off, without using water, is the most effective way of cleaning them.
Mushrooms are also known as nature's sponges, so when they are cleaned off with water, they tend to soak some of it up, and if they are totally submerged in water, they quickly suck up too much water.
Yet some people believe that a quick wash in water is the only way to clean them properly, to get rid of the sand and peat deposits that cling to mushrooms all the way to the retail outlets. As long as the cleaning process does not entail having the mushrooms getting totally submerged in water for too long a time, then there is nothing wrong with a quick rinse.
From all accounts, both schools of thought have equal merit.
So, How To Clean Mushrooms?
How to clean them also depends on a mushroom type. Let me explain.
Cultivated Mushrooms Don't Need Washing Before Cooking
These are the types of mushrooms that we purchase from the store for a quick and tasty addition to the cooking process. They include Portobello, Button, and Cremini mushrooms that do not need to be washed down. They are usually very clean already, and a quick wipe will suffice.
Cleaning Wild Mushrooms
Wild mushrooms are generally grown in sandy areas, and have organic detritus and sand and might need some brushing or a slight was to get all the dirt off. However, it is not so much of a health hazard but rather a gut-feel because many people just will feel uncomfortable eating slightly dirty produce.
So, if you are really adamant having your mushrooms squeaky clean then here is the best way to clean them:
Use a soft paintbrush to delicately brush away any visible dirt. You can also wipe them with a try or a damp cloth or very slightly rinse the mushrooms with cool water and pat dry with paper towels. If your mushrooms aren't visibly dirty, you don't really have to clean them.
If you do not have a paintbrush or you would rather not mix up your cooking and art supplies, I find that using this nice little mushroom cleaning brush that I bought from Amazon here will do an outstanding job.
You could also use this strange-looking Silicone Mushroom Scrubber, also available on Amazon. However, I have not personally used it, so I don't know exactly how well it will work.
Best Drying Methods
Dampened mushrooms need to be placed on a paper towel, with another paper towel placed over them. This will remove initial wetness through absorption. After that, they need to be gently patted down with paper towels until dry. It is a gentle and slow process, as mushrooms are relatively brittle and tend to crumble under too much pressure.
Smaller, firmer mushrooms can be spun in a vegetable spinner (like this one here on Amazon), and this method has proven to be most effective. In clinical tests, some mushrooms only show 2% extra weight after being spun in a dryer after washing, but it obviously depends on how long you spin it for, and what kind of fungi it is.
How To Store Mushrooms After Washing?
Let's say that your mushrooms were really dirty, and you had no choice but to wash them, or you just taught that washing was required in any case. So, now you have these washed mushrooms that you want to store for later.
Here is how to best store them to make them last as long as possible.
Use Paper Bags
Sometimes it's the simple methods that work best.
To store mushrooms that have been washed, you need to be mindful of the fact that they will last longer or store better if they have less water. Paper towels will continue to keep them dry and absorb water off them, and brown bags will aid the drying process, even in the fridge.
So, place them in a brown paper bag or a paper wrap, and give them a paper towel cover as well. Do not fold the bag very tightly so that they could breathe.
Do not store them in an airtight container or wrap them in plastic, as this will speed spoilage.
You Can Also Use Freezer Storage
Despite popular theories, fresh mushrooms can be frozen. It's not ideal, and they will emerge from the freezing process with a slightly altered taste and texture, but nothing that a bit of butter and seasoning can't fix.
When freezing, make sure that they are as dry as possible (there's a bit of a storyline coming through here) and place them into freezer bags, making sure you remove as much air as possible before placing them in the freezer.
The aim when freezing mushrooms is for them to not cling together into a single frozen mass. The best method to prevent this from happening is to lay them out on a tray, separately next to each other, and ‘flash freeze’ in the freezer.
Once they are frozen, place them in a freezer bag or freezer-safe storage containers and but them straight back to the freezer.
However, personally, I would cook them first before freezing—either blanch, steam or saute them and then pack them into freezer bags or airtight containers, whichever has less air.
Freezing them will keep them good for up to one year.
How Long Will Mushrooms Last After Washing?
In general, mushrooms will last up to 2-3 days once they have been washed, provided they are stored correctly in brown bags on paper towels.
Also, certain mushrooms have specific lifespans once washed. Generally, the fresh cultivated ones like the Portobello and Cremini should be used within two to three days, Oyster mushrooms within five to six days and Shiitake and Enoki will last up to eight days after washing.
How To Know If Mushrooms Have Gone Bad?
With mushrooms, much like life itself, nothing lasts forever, and nothing stays the same. There comes a time when you have to make a decision about your produce and see if they are still usable for the meals that you are planning. It all boils down to the slime factor.
When mushrooms get a thin trace of slime on them, they are still good to go if the slime can be removed with a soft wipe. If, however, they have developed a thick sticky, slimy surface and have gone mushy and darker in color, then DO NOT eat them.
So, just follow your instinct here. You can easily tell if the mushrooms have gone bad, spoiled, or rotten. When the slime has taken over, and it gives you a gag reflex and a strong sense of distrust, then you should let them go and throw them out.
Also, they shouldn't have a noticeable strong odor. If you can smell them, they have gone bad.
Let me just recap here. Do not eat if:
- They are very slimy
- They are mushy and soft
- They smell bad
- They are very wrinkly
- They are getting darker
- They have many dark spots
- They are older than 7 days
The Circle Of Life
If you are the sort of person that cultivates your own compost, then mushrooms are a great addition to your pile of fermenting organic waste, the best kind of nourishment for growing more fungi.