How to cook mushrooms: from cremini to shitake
“Mushrooms are recyclers,” said Olga Katic, owner of Mushroom Mountain, a South Carolina mushroom farm and educational center. They can grow on natural byproducts, such as corn husks, wood chips, sawdust, seed hulls — and, yes, manure — that would otherwise be discarded.
Beyond their benefits to the environment, mushrooms are great for our bodies, too. They’re a healthy source of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals, while being low in fat, cholesterol and calories.
“There are so many interesting compounds in them,” Katic added, including selenium, potassium, and beta glucan, a type of soluble fiber which can help fight heart disease and lower cholesterol.
The earthy, savory taste of mushrooms makes them a versatile and delicious ingredient in so many dishes. So cozy up with fungi this fall and explore the many common varieties — both wild and cultivated — that you’ll find at your local markets with these recipes and cooking ideas.
Save yourself time in the kitchen and stop wiping down individual mushrooms. Instead, rinse stemmed mushrooms in a colander or strainer, then gently transfer to a cotton (non-terrycloth) kitchen towel. Gently roll up the towel to dry the mushrooms, then slice or prep as needed for the recipe you’re making.
Dig into the wide world of fungi
Button mushrooms and cremini mushrooms are the most common varieties you’ll see at the grocery store: both are round and Ping-Pong ball-sized with a mild flavor. They’re easy to slice and sauté, taking on flavors that complement many recipes.
Button mushrooms are the baby of the Agaricus bisporus mushroom species — the most common mushroom — and are the earliest harvested. Cremini mushrooms are left to grow slightly longer, so they take on a brown color and have slightly more flavor.
Whether spelled portobello or portabella, the mushrooms are the same. These mushrooms are the mature, adult version of the cremini mushroom and have a more earthy flavor. (You’ll often see cremini mushrooms referred to as “baby bella” mushrooms because they’re the immature version.)
Whole portobello caps can be grilled like steaks or stuffed with almost any combination of ingredients that strikes your fancy, whether it’s spinach and cheese, vegetables and quinoa or pizza toppings.
Shiitake mushrooms have a bouncy, chewy texture and can handle high-heat cooking methods like roasting or grilling. Marinate and toss whole shiitake caps on the grill or roast them sliced to give them crispy browned edges.
King oyster mushrooms are incredibly firm, which makes them a vegetarian’s best friend for creating many meat and seafood substitutes.