You've probably heard that you should never wash mushrooms because they will soak up water and leave you with a soggy mess that doesn't cook well. But did you know that mushrooms are already 80 percent water? Alton Brown and the experts at Cooks Illustrated both tested how cleaning mushrooms under running water would change the amount of water in the fungi and found that mushrooms don't actually soak up that much water.
There's an easy way to get mushrooms ready to use for roasting, stuffing, in an immunity-boosting soup, or sauteing for green bean casserole. The key is to leave the mushrooms whole. Washing mushrooms after they are sliced will make them soggy, but if you leave them intact before washing, it makes the whole cleaning process so much simpler.
The easiest way how to clean mushrooms is with a salad spinner. Simply place the mushrooms in the basket, use the sprayer to give them a quick rinse with cold water, and then spin them dry. If you don't have a salad spinner, use a colander. Pat the mushrooms dry with a paper towel to soak up any surface moisture and brush off any clinging bits of dirt.
The exception to cleaning fresh mushrooms under water is if you're going to serve them raw. The one thing water does to mushrooms is cause discoloration, so if they're not going in a pan to cook, don't wash them.
Rinsing mushrooms off also works best when you have a large number of mushrooms to clean, as when you're using a whole carton of white button or cremini mushrooms. If you only have a few, the wiping them off with a damp cloth or a soft toothbrush works just as well.
Here are a few other tips for proper mushroom storage and preparation.
Don't clean mushrooms until right before you use them; they will turn into a slimy mess if you rinse them in water and then put them back into the refrigerator.
Don't store mushrooms in a paper bag or cover them with a damp paper towel. The best way to store them is in a Ziploc bag left partly open, or in their original container which was designed to let them breathe.
When cleaning portobello mushrooms, make sure to scrape out the gills. While they are safe to eat, they turn your food brown and have a stronger taste that you may not want in your dish.
You can eat the stems of most mushrooms, though shiitake and portobello stems can be a little tough and woody tasting. But don't toss them! Use those stems for mushroom stock or soup.