Savory, meaty sauteed mushrooms sound easy to execute: Cut mushrooms and place them in a hot pan with oil, right? But mushrooms are finicky fungi. High in moisture, when crowded during cooking, they can suddenly release their liquids, creating a pan full of sodden shrooms. They are also full of air pockets that absorb oil during cooking. Understanding the structure of a mushroom helps to avoid these pitfalls, and also teaches us that steaming raw mushrooms so they are cooked before adding oil to the pan is the key to the perfect browned mushroom.
Unlike plants or animals, the cells of mushrooms contain a carbohydrate called chitin which keeps them firm while cooking; that's why they don't break down into mush in a braise or stew. Steaming mushrooms collapses the air pockets created by chitin's structure and draws out the internal moisture. Once steamed, a bit more cooking time will evaporate the liquids, and then the cooked mushrooms will brown fully in the pan without soaking up all the oil.
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Don't Fear The Moisture
Now that you know the benefits of steaming mushrooms before sauteing them, you can let go of any fear of washing mushrooms and give them a good dunk in water to remove dirt and debris. Any water clinging to the mushrooms can be used for the steaming process. One note, wet mushrooms can be slippery to cut, so if you plan to quarter or slice them, do that before you wash.
To get the brownest, most savory mushrooms, use a pan with a tight-fitting lid. Warm the pan up and add about a quarter cup of water per pound of mushrooms. Don't worry about crowding the pan, just put all the prepared mushrooms in, salt lightly, and cover the pan. Cook until you see the mushroom moisture releasing and then remove the lid, stirring to evaporate the liquid. You can then add butter or oil and saute until the mushrooms are deeply brown. Try these umami-packed mushrooms with pasta, or serve with your next grilled steak.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.