I have a love-hate relationship with grocery shopping. I'll whine about the weekly errand: The time it takes! All the lugging! I'll put it off by purchasing most of my non-perishables online. But once I’m at the grocery store, I'm actually in my element. I take my time moving through the aisles. I touch the apples, the tomatillos, recipes dancing through my thoughts. Truth is, I find joy in choosing the food that will fuel me throughout the week.
But I shop on Sundays, and I know that relaxed, slow feeling will disappear when the new week arrives. By Monday, I’ll feel an urgency to hustle, to keep up with an ever-lengthening to-do list. So as I buy my groceries, there’s a little devil on my shoulder trying to convince me to grab anything that could potentially help me move quicker, like bagged, prepped salads and pre-sliced mushrooms.
And yes, I’ve listened to that little voice a time or two, happily leaving the grocery store with a couple of packages of pre-sliced mushrooms (with the thought that they’d make my life easier). But more often than not, a whole pound of mushrooms go to waste, and the slimy specimens end up in my trash by Wednesday night.
From dependable crimini to meaty morels, mushrooms have a lot to offer.
I've found myself wondering: Is it ever okay to buy pre-sliced mushrooms? To figure it out, I polled a few experts.
Concern 1: Are They Fresh and Clean?
Mushrooms are delicate, and their high moisture content makes them extremely perishable. In a matter of days, they can go from plump to shriveled to slimy—especially if they’re cut ahead of time. “I generally don't think pre-sliced mushrooms are great—cutting them that far in advance means they dry out and spoil faster,” explains Bon Appétit Senior Food Editor Molly Baz. “They just don’t stay as fresh.”
Epi Associate Editor Joe Sevier agrees: “They get slimy and dry out more quickly—I don’t know how that’s possible at the same time, but they do.” Whole mushrooms stay fresher longer—after they're sliced, mushrooms quickly begin to brown, thanks to an enzyme reaction.
It's also worth remembering that shiny packaging doesn’t guarantee that produce has been properly washed. “If they’re not cleaned before they’re sliced, the dirt actually gets inside of the mushrooms," Joe notes.
Concern 2: You can’t properly inspect them
Let’s get real: choosing the freshest mushrooms at the supermarket takes proper inspection. Sure, you can try to peek inside the plastic to make sure that the caps are intact and not discolored, but you should also touch your mushrooms, checking to make sure the mushroom hasn't gotten translucent and soggy or browned and dry. While you’re at it, pay attention to how they smell—any mushrooms with a sour or fishy aroma are a no-go.
Unfortunately, buying pre-packaged mushrooms means you miss these opportunities, and there’s no telling how long your purchase will last. If you choose the bulk bin instead, you can select exactly the mushrooms you want, and also avoid wasteful plastic packaging.Claire Saffitz
Concern 3: The best types of mushrooms don’t come pre-sliced
These days, a good grocery store offers so much more than mild white buttons or cremini. But more interesting 'shrooms don't often come pre-sliced, so you're missing out if you rely on the convenience pick. “My favorite mushrooms are the ones that need tearing—like maitake!” says Epi's Senior Food Editor Anna Stockwell. Tearing these earthy, gamey-flavored mushrooms apart follows their natural shape, helping to keep them in uniform sizes for even cooking and crisping. "Each piece, then, has the same amount of stem and frilly top." You wouldn't want these butchered in slices.
So, should you ever buy pre-sliced mushrooms?
Sorry, team—while mushrooms are an easy way to add flavor to almost any weeknight dinner, you've got to buy them whole to get the most for your money. The good news is, if you store them in a paper bag in your fridge and don't use all of them during the week, nice whole ones will stay fresh long enough to make it into into your breakfast skillet come Saturday.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious