Can you overcook mushrooms?

Mushrooms occupy a unique place in the world: neither animal nor plant, these fungi share characteristics of both. Frequently used to boost flavor to meat-based dishes and add umami to vegetarian foods, mushrooms have earned a high-status position in the arsenal of cooks worldwide. Even though they are used by chefs and home cooks alike, there is still plenty of mystery surrounding mushrooms. Over at The Splendid Table, Molly Birnbaum from America's Test Kitchen dispels myths and unearths facts about our favorite fungi

cream of mushroom soup

The first misguided notion that Birnbaum dispenses is that you shouldn't wash mushrooms. "It's good to think about the fact that mushrooms grow in damp forests, where it rains all the time. It is not a bad thing to wash mushrooms at all. You just really want be careful not to overdo it," she says. 

Birnbaum offers another piece of sage advice regarding mushroom storage. If you've ever purchased button mushrooms but neglected them for several days in the refrigerator, you may have noticed splotches on them and thrown them away. That's a mistake, says Birnbaum. Her tests at ATK found  that these blemished fungi are more flavorful than the pristine white ones on store shelves. 

As to the question posed in the title of this article, ATK did further research on how long cooking times affected the texture of mushrooms. In an experiment where they cooked different types of food in a liquid, testing their texture at five minute intervals, mushrooms were the least affected of the items tested. After a full forty minutes of cooking, mushrooms did not get soggy, mushy, or tough. retaining most of their original texture, meaning that it is very difficult to overcook a mushroom. 

Photo of Cream of mushroom soup from Taste of Home Magazine

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