Removing dirt from mushrooms


What's the correct way to clean mushrooms? i've always heard that they shouldn't be washed in water.

Mushrooms, according to scores of cookbooks, are extremely absorbent. To determine just how absorbent, I did a series of tests in my kitchen.

I removed the stems from a package of button mushrooms and weighed the caps. Dry, they weighed 6 1/2 ounces. I soaked them for five minutes in cold water, towel-dried them and weighed them again. Now they weighed 8 1/2 ounces, a gain of 2 ounces.

The longer the mushrooms soaked, the more water they absorbed.

The truth is that it's rare these days to find mushrooms that are really dirty. The most effective way to remove dirt is not to soak them, but to wipe them while they are dry.

I first knock the mushroom gently against the counter to dislodge any dirt inclined to fall right off. Then I use a balled-up paper towel to gently rub off any visible dirt from the cap. Finally, I pull out the stem and discard it - there can be quite a bit of dirt toward the bottom.

If you would like to give your mushrooms a brief wash, place a strainer or colander inside a large bowl and fill the bowl with cold water. Drop in the mushrooms, swish them around a bit, then lift them out in the colander. Shake them dry, then place them on a few layers of toweling. Pat them dry gently but firmly.

Erica Marcus writes for Newsday. E-mail your queries to, or send them to Erica Marcus, Food/Part 2, Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Road, Melville, NY 11747-4250.

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