How to Clean Mushrooms

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Reserve unused mushroom stems for making soup stock.
Reserve unused mushroom stems for making soup stock. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Mushrooms’ spongy structure makes cleaning them a tricky endeavor. While dirt and grit cling to mushrooms’ surfaces and get lodged in intricate nooks and crannies, the absorbent quality of this fleshy fungus means prolonged submerging in water isn’t an option. Dry cleaning with a damp cloth or a very brief rinse under cool, running water is your best bet to avoid waterlogged results. Wait to clean your mushrooms right before use, with the exception of morels, which benefit from a through cleaning prior to storage.

How to Clean Mushrooms (Except Morels): the Wiping Method

Using a damp paper towel, gently wipe away any visible dirt or grit, working with one mushroom at a time. Use a soft brush or fold a paper towel into a tip to gently remove any debris from delicate gills.

How to Clean Mushrooms (Except Morels): the Rinsing Method

Mushrooms with a significant amount of dirt, or those that contain grit in hard-to-reach places, may be lightly and quickly rinsed with cool water. Contact with water should be kept to a minimum to avoid waterlogged mushrooms that won’t brown nicely or readily take on seasoning.

How to Clean Morels: the Rinsing Method

Morels present a special set of challenges when it comes to cleaning as their honeycomblike caps can harbor significant amounts of dirt and even the occasional insect. A quick rinse under cool running water coupled with a gentle scrub between the mushroom's folds with a soft brush is usually adequate, though larger mushrooms should be cut in half lengthwise prior to cleaning to ensure complete debris removal.

How to Clean Morels: the Submerge and Swish Method

If you’d rather not compromise presentation by cutting your morels in half, try briefly submerging and swishing the mushrooms in lightly salted water, followed by a quick rinse with clean water.

Cleaning Tips

Avoid cleaning mushrooms with the rinse method if you plan on eating or serving them raw, as water can create an unappealing sliminess on the mushroom’s surface. A soft-bristled toothbrush makes for a great mushroom cleaning tool, especially for harder-to-clean areas like the gills.

Post-Cleaning

Immediately pat dry mushrooms cleaned with water and let them air-dry on a wire rack, leaving space between each mushroom so that air is allowed to circulate. Most mushroom varieties should be used as soon as possible after being cleaned with water as they will begin deteriorating immediately. However, morels benefit from cleaning before storage. Loosely wrap cleaned morels in damp paper towels and store in the refrigerator for up to three days. Keep the paper towels damp to prevent the mushrooms from drying out.

Preparing: Cutting and Trimming

Remove any spoiled or unsightly blemishes from your mushrooms using a sharp paring knife. Trim off a thin slice from the base of the stem if you plan on using it. If not, remove the stem with a gentle twist. The stems on shiitake mushrooms should be trimmed closer to the cap, however, as they are tough. Cut your mushrooms into desired pieces with a sharp knife; avoid using serrated blades.

Preparing: for Stuffing

Larger mushrooms like portobellos are perfect for stuffing, and removing the gills makes more room for desired ingredients. First remove the stem with a gentle twist, then run a spoon around the inside of the cap to gently scrape out the gills. Smaller mushroom varieties such as button or cremini can also be used for stuffing; simply remove the stems with a gentle twist.

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