How to Wash Mushrooms

The unknown man holding a fresh mushroom and cleaning them under a splash in the kitchen sink.
© Jelena Zelen/Shutterstock.com

Written by Cammi Morgan

Updated: July 30, 2023

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When foraging for wild mushrooms it is important to field dress them or at least lightly clean them before putting them into your basket. Even then, after picking mushrooms, you will often need to do some supplementary cleaning of them. Most methods involve dry cleaning mushrooms, rather than washing them to preserve their integrity. However, there is a method to washing mushrooms that won’t leave them too water-logged.

Read on to learn how to wash mushrooms effectively as well as some alternative methods for cleaning your harvest.

Dirty unwashed chanterelle mushrooms top and side view on which a slug sits

Wild-harvested mushrooms can be covered in dirt, wood debris, and bugs.

©Nikvalmary/Shutterstock.com

Why Do You Need to Clean Foraged Mushrooms?

Most of the time, freshly foraged wild mushrooms have some amount of dirt and wood debris on them. Often, tiny bits of this dirt and debris end up settled in between the harder-to-clean areas. The spore-dispersal tissues, such as gills or teeth can be especially difficult to clean. You may also see a few itty bitty insects dotted throughout the mushroom. As such, most people prefer to spend a few minutes thoroughly cleaning their wild mushrooms before cooking them.

Most Recommended Cleaning Method

Foraging and cooking up wild harvested mushrooms can sound perfectly romantic, and in many ways, it is. But the cleaning process can be quite labor-intensive for some sought-after species. It might be tempting to quickly spray down the mushrooms with water or soak them in a bowl before popping them in a pan. However, you may quickly regret this as your gorgeous harvest won’t brown or caramelize nicely since it’s absorbed too mush water. As such, even though it can be quite tedious, dry cleaning mushrooms is the most recommended method for most species as it won’t lead to your mushrooms becoming soggy.

It is time consuming, but brushing in all of the nooks and crannies of the mushroom ensures a delicious meal that isn’t tarnished by a mouthful of gritty dirt. The most dirt is often clinging to the bottom of the stem (aka the stipe) of the mushroom. You can save time by simply cutting off the base, which is often a bit tough to eat on many species anyways.

Some robust mushrooms, such as chanterelles can deal with a quick rinse and/or soak without causing any problems, but that just isn’t the case with many mushrooms that have deep gills like oysters or pores like porcini.

If you’re set on washing or soaking them, however, there is a method that is least likely to leave your mushrooms soggy. Below, we’ll discuss the best manner of using water to clean your mushrooms.

Cleaning porcini mushrooms with a brush, boletus edulis, closeup

Brushing your porcini is the best method, but it can be quite labor intensive.

©Miriam Doerr Martin Frommherz/Shutterstock.com

How to Wash Mushrooms Without Leaving Them Soggy

Some mushrooms are quite porous and those species tend to act like a sponge. Soaking mushrooms in a bowl or water or rinsing them in the sinks typically leads to mushrooms that become water-logged and won’t brown nicely when cooked.

An exception is if your goal is to boil or parboil the mushrooms. At this point, soaking them or rinsing them under running water is a fine plan. Boiling isn’t the cooking method of choice for most mushrooms, however, as it doesn’t really allow the flavors to develop and shine the way sautéing in butter, salt, and garlic does. One popularly foraged group of mushrooms, honey mushrooms, however, are sometimes boiled for a little while before sautéing to reduce the risk of GI upset. You can still dry your mushrooms after boiling them and sauté them up in hopes of better texture and browning.

If you want to maintain the integrity of the mushrooms while using water, the secret is a damp cloth or brush. Rather than rinsing or soaking, you can clean the mushroom with a dampen cleaning brush or a cloth. However, you’ll usually still want to dry clean first to efficiently remove loose dirt and debris before adding water. If you start with a damp tool, you may find that the mushroom becomes quite streaked with dirt. So, it’s best to still brush away everything that comes off easily with a dry implement. After, you can remove any hard-to-reach grit with your damp cloth or brush. Finally, pat down the mushrooms with a dry paper towel. The result will be clean foraged mushrooms that will still brown beautifully when sautéing.

Mushrooms boiling away in a pot.

If you’re going to boil your mushrooms, you can go ahead and wash them beforehand. If not, ideally opt for dry cleaning or damp brushing.

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About the Author

Cammi Morgan is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on mycology, marine animals, forest and river ecology, and dogs. Cammi has been volunteering in animal rescue for over 10 years, and has been studying mycology and field-researching mushrooms for the past 3 years. A resident of Southeast Appalachia, Cammi loves her off-grid life where she shares 20 acres with her landmates, foster dogs, and all the plants, fungi, and critters of the forest.

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