How to Clean Mushrooms for Earthy Flavor Without a Speck of Dirt

Before you toss mushrooms into a recipe, read this guide on how to clean each type (including morels)—plus tips on selecting, cutting, and storing mushrooms.

With the wide variety of mushrooms available, it's easy to add those nutrient-rich, heart-healthy fungi to our diets as vegetarian main dishes or stuffed for an easy party food for guests. Since mushrooms grow so low to the ground, they tend to still be a bit dirty when you buy your cartons at the grocery store. The keys to great-tasting mushrooms is to buy them fresh and clean mushrooms without letting them get waterlogged. Follow these tips on purchasing quality mushrooms and how to clean, store, and prep them, including directions on how to clean morel mushrooms when you're lucky enough to get some of these highly-sought-after mushrooms.

variety of cleaned mushrooms on brown background

BHG / Ana Cadena

How to Clean Mushrooms

person wiping down mushroom with paper towel

BHG / Ana Cadena

The only "tool" you'll need is a paper towel.

How to Clean All Mushrooms (Except Morels)

Use a damp paper towel or a soft mushroom brush to wipe each mushroom, one at a time, to remove any dirt. We can imagine the follow-up question now: How do you clean mushrooms when you don't have time to individually wipe each one? We grant you permission to lightly rinse the mushrooms with cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Don't soak the mushrooms. Because they absorb water like little sponges, mushrooms won't brown nicely when cooked if they are full of water.

Though portobellos are larger than most other varieties, this is how to clean portobello mushrooms, too. Keep reading to learn more about their gills.

How to Clean Morel Mushrooms

Cut a thin slice off the bottom of each morel mushroom stem and, if desired, cut the mushrooms in half from stem to tip. Rinse in cool water to remove any dirt and insects. If the mushrooms look clean, this may be enough; if not, a short soak in lightly salted water brings out any remaining insects and dirt. If soaking, change the water as needed until dirt and debris are removed. Rinse the morels well, pat dry, and use in place of other mushrooms in recipes. Add cleaned morel mushrooms to our skillet-cooked mushroom medley.

How to Clean Sliced Mushrooms

Most of the time, pre-sliced mushrooms at the store will say they've been washed already, but if you see some dirt, you may want to clean again. To clean sliced mushrooms, give them a shake in a colander to loosen any dirt, then give them a quick rinse just before you're ready to cook. Dry them off with paper towels or a clean tea towel.

How to Clean Mushrooms for Stuffing

scooping out gill of portobello mushrooms

BHG / Ana Cadena

Portobello Mushrooms

For portobello mushrooms, clean as directed above. Gently twist off or cut off the stem of each mushroom. You can reserve the stems to use in the stuffed mushroom filling, if desired. Holding a mushroom in one hand, use a spoon to gently scrape the gills from the underside of the portobello mushroom cap; discard the gills. Repeat with remaining mushrooms. Now they are ready to stuff.

Test Kitchen Tip: Gills do not have to be removed from portobello mushrooms to eat them, but if you're planning to stuff them, the gills will be in your way. For grilled portobello burgers and other nonstuffed mushroom recipes, you may leave the gills for richer flavor.

White Mushrooms

For white mushrooms and cremini mushrooms, choose fairly large mushrooms for stuffing. Clean as directed above. Gently twist off or cut off the stem of each mushroom. You can reserve the stems to use in the stuffed mushroom filling, if desired. Use a teaspoon to fill each mushroom with the desired filling.

Mushrooms How-to #2
Blain Moats

How to Cut Mushrooms

Test Kitchen Tip: If a mushroom stem is tough, trim it. Always remove shiitake mushroom stems before cutting; they are very tough and not pleasant for eating.

Selecting and Storing Mushrooms

  • Mushrooms are fresh if they are firm, plump, and free from bruises with no visible moisture on the outside. Avoid slimy or spotted mushrooms.
  • For white mushrooms, also called button mushrooms, the gills on the underside should be tightly closed.
  • Store mushrooms (except morels) unwashed in the refrigerator for up to two days in a paper bag or in the original packaging. Because they need to breathe, mushrooms shouldn't be stored in a plastic bag.
  • To store morel mushrooms, clean and wrap mushrooms loosely in damp paper towels or damp clean cotton cloth, and place the bundle in a bowl. Store in the refrigerator for up to three days, keeping towels damp so the mushrooms don't dry out.

Mushroom math: 8 ounces whole mushrooms equals 3 cups sliced or chopped.

With the exception of morels, wait to clean mushrooms until just before using. Enjoy your dirt-free mushrooms in your quiche for brunch, baked in lasagna instead of beef, or on top of pizza.

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