The Beginner’s Guide To All Things Mushroom

Fresh mushroom varieties

If you’re new to mushrooms, they can seem slightly mysterious at the start. Unlike other residents of the produce aisle, they’re not peeled, shucked or cored so what exactly do you do with them? How do you pick the right ones? How do you cook them?

If you’re asking these questions, you’ve come to the right place. First, let’s start with the mushroom choices you’ll be presented with at the grocery store. 

Mushroom Varieties 

There are many delicious varieties to choose from, each with their own unique shape, size and texture. Here’s a quick overview of your choices: 

  • White Button: The most popular variety in the U.S. with a mild flavor and small to medium in size. 
  • Crimini: Also known as “baby bellas,” these mushrooms are similar to white buttons but have light brown caps and a deeper, earthier flavor. 
  • Portabella: Known for their large size and sapid, meat-like texture and flavor, portabellas are a popular choice for a vegetarian meat alternative.
  • Shiitake: Have broad, umbrella-shaped caps and curved stems. These mushrooms have a rich, natural flavor that mimics the aromas of a fresh, wooded forest when cooked. 
  • Oyster: Come in several colors, including gray, pale yellow, pink and blue. They have a velvety texture and delicate flavor. 
  • Enoki: Have long, spindly stems topped with tiny, button-shaped caps. These mushrooms have a mild taste and crunchy texture. 
  • Beech: Petite in size with small white or brown caps. They have a sweet, nutty taste and crunchy texture.  
  • Maitake: Have a distinct aroma and robust, woodsy flavor with a delicate, rippling fan shape. 
  • King Trumpet: Have tall, thick stems and light brown caps with a firm, meaty texture and pleasant, subtle flavor. 

Preparing and Storing Mushrooms 

Mushrooms are a pretty low-maintenance food. Once you get them home from the grocery store, it’s best to store them in their original packaging or a porous paper bag in the refrigerator for up to a week. 

When you’re ready to cook them, just brush off the debris with a damp paper towel or rinse them briefly with water and pat dry with a paper towel. 

Learn more about selecting, storing and cleaning mushrooms here.

Cooking Mushrooms

One of the best things about mushrooms (besides their amazing umami flavor and excellent health benefits) is their versatility. They can be cooked and incorporated into just about any meal and can even mimic meat in hearty vegetarian dishes. Here are five popular ways to cook them:

  1. Sautéing: This is a great way to prepare mushrooms for just about any use. You can cook them whole, sliced, chopped or halved, and they’ll be ready in just a few minutes.
  2. Grilling: Next time you fire up the grill, toss on some mushrooms! They’re easy to cook on skewers or in grilling baskets. You can even put whole portabella caps directly on the grates and enjoy them as a meaty veggie burger patty
  3. Roasting: Cooking mushrooms on a baking pan in the oven brings out their indulgent flavors. They can be roasted solo or along with other ingredients for recipes like Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Baby Bella Bacon Bits
  4. Microwaving: If you’re short on time or craving a quick, healthy snack, mushrooms can be microwaved in just 2-3 minutes! This technique requires no oil or butter so it’s actually considered one of the healthiest ways to cook them.
  5. The Blend™: Blending finely chopped mushrooms with ground meat is an innovative way to add some nutrition to your meals and make your meat go further. The Blend is perfect for burgers, tacos, pasta sauce, casseroles and more. It’s also a great way to get your picky eaters to eat their mushrooms! 

Watch step-by-step videos of each of these techniques here

If you made it to the end, congratulations! You’ve graduated Mushrooms 101. Now, get cooking with the mighty mushroom or expand your knowledge even more by learning how they’re grown

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