Brushing Mushrooms Clean: Do I Really Have to Do That?

There are certain labor-intensive recipe phrases that can make the most diligent cook roll her eyes. "Do I really have to do that?" we wonder. Every week, we will track down the answer to that question. Why? Because as much as we love cooking, we're kind of lazy. Leave your Do I Really Have To Do That? questions in the comments and they shall be answered, saving us all a lot of needless trouble.

Please allow me the telling of my longtime favorite joke: A mushroom walks into a bar and orders a drink. The bartender says, "Sorry, we don't serve your kind here." The mushroom asks, "Why not? I'm a fun guy." Ba dum dum!

Here's the deal: "Mushrooms are naturally very watery," explains cookbook author Dina Cheney. Because mushrooms are like little sponges, the thinking goes that washing them will only make them more waterlogged. "The more watery food is, the soggier its texture and more diluted/bland its flavor," says Dina. In a word, yuck.

Food science smartie Alton Brown tested brushing vs. washing in an episode of Good Eats. Two pounds of washed mushrooms did absorb water, but it was only a small amount. And perhaps most relevant to the home cook: rinsing was a helluva lot faster than brushing. Alton's takeaway: fear not a quick rinse.

Dina thumbs her nose at the brushing rule, too. "I personally regularly break this 'law' and quickly rinse my mushrooms in a colander placed in the sink under cold running water. The remedy for doing so: just cook them longer! Sauté them at high heat for a longer period of time until they stop emitting water and turn a nice brown color. You can also roast them at high heat to achieve the same outcome."

If you're going to wash your mushrooms, just don't soak them, says Chef Chad Sarno, healthy eating chef for Whole Foods Market. A quick rinse right before cooking will do the trick. Until then, store mushrooms in a paper bag (plastic doesn't breathe and will leave them slimy).

The final verdict: "Be lazy!" declares Dina.

You don't have to tell us twice.

Why do peanut butter and jelly go well together?
Does an Egg McMuffin use real eggs?
Why is ginger so good for you?