Cooking mushrooms can get kind of tricky. You can eat them raw, so they can be technically be "done" any time, right? Whether you're making a quick meal of mushrooms on toast or you're sautéing enough for a pizza party, here's how to cook tender, tasty, and totally succulent mushrooms every time. Cooking mushrooms concentrates their flavor and brings out notes of sweet earthiness from the Maillard reaction taking place. However, their high moisture content prevents mushrooms from caramelizing easily or quickly. The trick is to cook mushrooms slowly until they release all their moisture.
Cook mushrooms in a pan with a lot of surface area. You want to be able to spread the mushrooms out in a single layer to maximize their contact with the hot pan and allow moisture to evaporate quickly. A skillet or sauté pan is best.
You also want to hear a gentle sizzling the whole time you're cooking mushrooms. This means that the pan is hot enough to quickly evaporate the moisture and caramelize the mushrooms. If you don't hear sizzling, adjust the heat until you do.
How to Cook Mushrooms on the Stove Top
What You Need
Mushrooms, any kind
Butter or olive oil
1. Prepare the Mushrooms: Clean the mushrooms by rubbing the dirt off with a paper towel or rinsing them quickly under running water. Slice, quarter, or mince your mushrooms, as desired or instructed in your recipe.
2. Cook to Release Moisture: Heat a few teaspoons of butter or oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt, and stir to evenly coat the mushrooms with butter. You should hear the mushrooms sizzling. Continue cooking for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms start to release their moisture. The mushrooms will still be pale white, but you'll see a sheen of moisture on the mushrooms and some liquid collecting in the bottom of the pan.
3. Finish Cooking the Mushrooms: Continue cooking the mushrooms over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until all the moisture has evaporated and the mushrooms start to turn dark reddish-brown with golden spots. This should take another 5-8 minutes (total cooking time is about 10 minutes).
4. Use or Store the Mushrooms: Taste the mushrooms and add more salt if desired. Use the mushrooms right away or refrigerate them for up to a week.
• Cooking Mushrooms with Other Ingredients: If cooking mushrooms in combination with other vegetables, you have two options. One way is to cook the mushrooms separately and then add them back in at the end. The other way is to cook the mushrooms along with other vegetables that have long cooking times or that can hold up to long cooking. For my typical base of onions, mushrooms, and red peppers, I usually cook the onions until barely translucent, then add the mushrooms, and then add the peppers when the mushrooms are almost done.
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(Originally published 9/16/08)
(Images: Emma Christensen)