Mushrooms can be eaten raw or cooked, and are great as a snack or as part of a tasty dish. Many varieties of mushrooms exist, and while types of mushrooms are often interchangeable in recipes, choosing the perfect mushroom can make all the difference to your dish.
Opinions are split between whether it is best to wash mushrooms before cooking or not, as some feel that it is better to take dirt or grit out of mushrooms using a dry brush or kitchen towel, as this prevents any extra moisture being absorbed into the mushroom. Others feel this is a less effective way of cleaning mushrooms, and that washing and drying thoroughly is best.
White or button mushrooms
These are the most common type of mushrooms available in supermarkets. They range in size from ½ inch to 3 inches (1 to 8 cm), though it is only the smallest of these that are generally called button mushrooms.
They are best eaten when their caps are closed, and are turning past their best once all of the gills are visible. Bigger mushrooms, unless being baked whole, for example, are generally chopped or sliced before cooking.
Chanterelle mushrooms are increasing in popularity, largely because of their rich and fruity flavour.
They should be golden in colour and not have any dark or slimy parts, and their gills should be intact and well attached to the underside of the cap.
Few people eat chanterelles raw, as they can cause stomach cramps. However, cooking them brings out their flavour and texture. These mushrooms respond well to baking or sautéing.
Originating in Japan and Korea, shiitake mushrooms are large, meaty and earthy. When fresh, they are firm and do not have patches of discolouration.
If you are using dried shiitake mushrooms, they should be soaked for several hours, but fresh shiitake should not be soaked, as these will absorb the water and turn sloppy when cooked.
They can be cooked in a range of ways, acting as a substitute or addition to meat, or can also be prepared for stuffing.
Portobello mushrooms are one of the largest edible mushrooms available. These mushrooms can be eaten raw, but cooking them intensifies their flavour.
While it is possible to chop Portobello mushrooms into small pieces before cooking, this can cause them to lose some of their naturally meaty flavour, as they absorb instead the flavour of the ingredients they are being cooked with.
Baking, Roasting or Grilling
Baking, roasting or grilling mushrooms helps to bring out their natural flavour, and retains their texture. When baking, roasting or grilling mushrooms, massaging oil, garlic and other herbs and spices into the mushrooms helps to enhance the flavour.
Spread the chopped or whole mushrooms on a tray and roast or bake at 200ᵒC (400 ᵒF) for around 30 minutes depending on the size of the mushrooms, or until tender.
Alternatively, grill over a medium-high heat for around 20 minutes, again depending on the size of the mushrooms.
Sautéing or frying
Sautéing or frying mushrooms is another extremely popular way of cooking mushrooms. It is important to spread the mushrooms in a thin layer over a large frying pan or skillet, so that the mushrooms are not clumped together, and that they brown rather than steam.
Keep the mushrooms moving round the pan and sauté or fry for as little as two minutes, or up to 15 minutes depending on how brown and crispy you like your mushrooms to be.