Debunking the Mushroom Washing Myth: Chef’s Ultimate Guide

When you purchase mushrooms at the store, the fungi usually require a bit of cleaning before using them. As with any fresh produce, you want to ensure that your mushrooms are free of dirt and debris. But, given their delicate nature, people are often divided on the best way to clean them.

Should You Wash Mushrooms?

Convinced that washing them can result in slimy and less-flavorful ‘shrooms, some people believe that the only way to get dirt-free fungi is to scrape off the dirt or peel the mushrooms. However, according to chef Alex Guarnaschelli, it is okay to wash your mushrooms.

In a video posted to Instagram and Tiktok, Guarnaschelli says that she uses a knife or a damp cloth to remove visible dirt from mushrooms, but if she has particularly dirty mushrooms, she washes them.

The Best Way to Wash Mushrooms 

Yes, folks, you can indeed wash your mushrooms. The critical step is to wait to wash them until right before you cook with them so they don’t get bogged down with water. After giving the mushrooms a rinse, dry them off, and you’re ready to cook. 

While many folks on Tiktok said they still prefer to brush off their mushrooms or peel them, others are relieved to know they can save a little time. One person said, “Thank you for telling me this! I’m always SO paranoid about getting my mushrooms too wet.” Many also noted that Alton Brown had a segment on his show “Good Eats” disproving the belief that mushrooms will absorb too much water if they get wet. 

Similarly, Harold McGee, food historian and author of “On Food and Cooking” (my golden standard food science handbook), said, “Cookbooks often advise against washing mushrooms so as not to make them soggy or dilute their flavor. However, they’re already mostly water, and lose little if any flavor from a brief rinse. They should be cooked immediately, however, since washing can damage the surface cells and cause general discoloration.”

Of course, if you prefer, you can always use one of the other methods of cleaning your mushrooms, including using a soft-bristle brush to scrub away dirt gently, or even use a technique chef Emeril Lagassé championed: dipping a small brush in water, then brushing the mushroom to use a minimal amount of water for cleaning.