9 Crucial Mistakes You're Making When Cooking With Mushrooms

There are a wide variety of mushrooms out there. Mushrooms are available in a whole range of shapes and sizes, and there are a dazzling array of different ways to cook them too. In fact, at first glance, it can feel slightly intimidating. Where to even start? Mushrooms can be sautéed and enjoyed as a side dish or mixed into a main dish. Whole mushroom caps can even be grilled and served like burgers for a tasty vegetarian main dish. 

Even better, they make for a wonderfully healthy addition to the dinner table. A paper in the journal Food & Nutrition reports that mushrooms are low in calories while being an excellent source of nutrients like potassium, selenium, B vitamins, and dietary fiber. When exposed to ultraviolet light, mushrooms can even be a good source of vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin.

Mushrooms, with their soft, springy texture, can make for a mouthwatering addition to any meal. They also offer a tasty way to add some extra nutrition to your diet. While mushrooms are considered a vegetable, they're actually a fungus, according to Best Food Facts. They're technically in a class of their own. While they're easy to find in any supermarket, there are a few kitchen tips that you can follow to make certain your mushrooms are exactly as delicious as they deserve to be!

1. Washing your mushrooms

One easy mistake to make in the kitchen is over-washing mushrooms before cooking them. According to Bon Appétit, mushrooms have a habit of soaking up water like little sponges, so if you wash them too liberally, they may never really dry out. 

While it is, of course, important to make sure your food is clean before cooking, many chefs prefer not to wash them at all. Instead of risking their mushrooms being too soggy on the plate, they opt instead to use a soft brush to remove any dirt before cooking.

However, this attitude is far from universal. According to Great British Chefs, some argue that it's fine to wash mushrooms a little if it's necessary. The one thing all will certainly agree on, though, is never to wash them unnecessarily and to definitely never soak them in a pan of water. 

For anyone who may worry about their mushrooms not being clean, this is a perfectly valid concern. It's important to keep in mind that cultivated mushrooms are grown in sterile soil, free from any bacteria or other nasties. Unless you're cooking mushrooms that have been harvested in the wild, they're likely to be perfectly hygienic.

2. Cooking them at the wrong temperature

No matter what kind of delicious mushroom recipes you're making, the right temperature is key to ensuring your finished mushrooms have a nice texture: They should be firm and not damp or soggy. According to Monterey Mushrooms, it's best to use a good high temperature for properly roasted mushrooms. One convenient thing about mushrooms is that they can easily withstand high temperatures, according to Great British Chefs,

This is because they're naturally full of water, which boils away during cooking. As a result, they're excellent grilled over a barbecue too. When pan-frying mushrooms, it's ideal to do so on medium heat: Too hot, and you risk them burning. On the other hand, as Bon Appétit explains, it's important to make sure your pan is hot enough too. Mushrooms always lose water while cooking, and it's important to make sure all of this boils away to prevent your mushrooms from being too soggy.

3. Buying pre-packaged mushrooms

While this point may not actually be about cooking, it's still a mistake many cooks make. Supermarkets often sell pre-packaged mushrooms that are conveniently wrapped in plastic packaging. While it may certainly be tempting to take the easy option and pick up one of these packs, Cook's Illustrated explains that this is a mistake. Whenever possible, try and buy loose mushrooms and avoid the plastic. Many supermarkets will supply paper bags for mushrooms. 

The main issue is that mushrooms are quickly perishable, and plastic wrap traps moisture and condensation. Mushrooms will rapidly go bad when stored in plastic. If there's no other option, be certain to remove your mushrooms from any plastic trays as soon as you get them home. Of course, the other benefit to avoiding pre-packaged mushrooms is that it also prevents the use of single-use plastics. Buying loose mushrooms is good for both your kitchen and the environment!

4. Storing mushrooms incorrectly

Mushrooms really can be perilously perishable, and just as they can start to go bad on supermarket shelves if stored incorrectly, they can just as easily start to go bad in your own refrigerator if you aren't careful. The reason mushrooms can go bad so quickly is that they're full of water. As Martha Stewart points out, poorly kept mushrooms will quickly become unpleasantly slimy before you have a chance to cook them.

The trick to storing mushrooms is not to let them get too wet. According to Masterclass, make sure you don't wash your mushrooms before storing them, as this will only ensure they go bad more quickly. Air circulation is also a big plus, so storing your mushrooms in a porous container is ideal as it will allow excess moisture to escape. Some chefs like to loosely wrap their mushrooms in a paper towel to soak up any stray moisture and then leave them in an open container in the refrigerator.

5. Adding salt too soon

Salt is an all-important ingredient, and the right amount of it can be essential in bringing out the full flavor of dishes like a creamy mushroom risotto. All the same, it's important not to add salt to your mushrooms too soon. While mushrooms will naturally lose water while cooking, salt will accelerate the process, drying out the mushrooms too rapidly and preventing them from cooking properly. 

The unfortunate result is that adding salt too early during cooking will give the mushrooms a tough and unpleasant rubbery mouthfeel instead of the tender texture of well-cooked mushrooms. This particular mushroom cooking mistake is easy to make and is certain to spoil them. Best to save the salt for later on, when they're ready to serve and all the excess water has already been cooked out. This way, you'll ensure that the mushrooms have the perfect texture without being too watery. 

6. Not using enough oil

Don't worry if you've made this mistake before: Many people have. One of the most common mistakes when cooking mushrooms is not using enough cooking fat, and this is true no matter which types of mushrooms you're cooking up. Mushrooms can be cooked in nearly any kind of fat, from olive oil for a light, Mediterranean-style dish to rich butter for a wholesome breakfast side dish. The most important thing, however, is to make certain that you add enough. 

As Bon Appétit notes, mushrooms will happily absorb oils in much the same way they absorb water. If you aren't careful, they'll soak up all the oil you add, and there won't be enough left in the pan to cook them with. If this happens, you risk your mushrooms starting to burn. Don't be afraid to add a little more oil while cooking to make sure they're frying properly.

7. Not cooking them for long enough

This really is one of the best tips for making certain your mushrooms have a good final texture. One of the secrets to cooking mushrooms is that, unlike meat or vegetables, it's not really possible to overcook them. Provided they don't burn, Cook's Illustrated even asserts that mushrooms cannot actually be overcooked. The upshot is that you shouldn't be afraid to leave your mushrooms cooking for a little longer than other foods. 

A longer cooking time will mean your finished mushrooms will have a firmer texture while still being tender to bite into. The reason, as Real Simple explains, is, once more, all about water. Essentially, the longer mushrooms cook, the more excess water they lose. This usually leaks out into the pan, and longer cooking times will allow more of it to evaporate. Alternatively, if cooking your mushrooms in the oven, the liquid can be drained off to use later for stocks or sauces: Think of it as a little bonus!

8. Overcrowding the pan

Mushrooms are the kind of food that demands you avoid being too hasty while cooking. Overcrowding the pan is a common mistake to make, especially among cooks used to ingredients like spinach leaves, which shrink down to a fraction of their size. Mushrooms do also shrink while cooking, but it's important to leave them plenty of space to do so. 

As Great British Chefs explains, as mushrooms lose their moisture while cooking, they'll start to boil off. Without enough space in the pan, your mushrooms will start to cook by steaming rather than by frying, which will spoil that sought-after texture you should be aiming for. 

It may be tempting to fry the whole lot at once, but if you're sautéing a large amount of mushrooms, it may be better to cook them in multiple small batches instead. This will ensure that all of your mushrooms are as tasty as possible when you serve them up.

9. Slicing the mushrooms too thin

Mushrooms are a popular traditional pizza topping: They tend to be sliced very thinly to give the pizza a nice crispy finish. However, when cooking mushrooms in other ways, it's best not to slice them too thinly, as mushrooms tend to shrink during cooking. 

All Recipes recommends thicker slices of mushrooms to ensure they keep a good texture when fully cooked. While this isn't exactly a mushroom mistake, it's a great tip to make sure your mushrooms are satisfying to eat by the time they reach the dining table. 

Indeed, rather than cutting them into slices, Live Eat Learn notes how some chefs prefer to stem their mushrooms and then either quarter or dice them, depending on what kind of texture the final dish calls for.

With some varieties of mushrooms, it's worth considering whether they need to be cut at all. As Bon Appétit mentions, smaller mushrooms are perfectly good when cooked whole. Some of the more irregular types of mushrooms, like oyster mushrooms or chanterelles, can be best cooked by simply tearing them up before adding them to the pan.