Is it safe to not wash mushrooms


Most chefs stress the fact that white button mushrooms, and others, should not be washed to be cleaned. They say to either lightly brush them or just pat them with a cloth or paper towel to get the "dirt" off to clean them, and then cook or eat them raw. Do not "wash" them, to clean them, because the chefs says the mushrooms get waterlogged, and they believe something happens to the taste.

Well, as a little girl my Dad took me to a mushroom farm. It was disgusting because of the smell of manure. The mushrooms were in trays, enveloped totally in the manure in trays, that were stacked high according to the sizes and I don't remember what else. We were in darkness, and my Dad would go from one area to the next buying trays from all over. Years later, I became the buyer and I don't remember much other than the awful smell, the sizes, the darkness and how much I still loved to eat mushrooms. To prepare I washed them with water, got off all the excess manure, and depending on how the mushroom was to be prepared, stuffed, quick boiled in lots of salt then kept in that same salted water to be eaten with sour cream, fried with butter, prepared them many ways.

My question is, why do chefs insist that you should not wash, only use their method, lightly brush or towel off the mushroom? Isn't safety a reason to wash? And washing doesn't change the flavor, right?

Best Answer

I have read a couple of experiments (in Dutch so I will not link them here) where people cooked the same dish from the same shrooms, with one batch brushed and the other washed.

The washed batch did need higher temparature to actually fry, instead of just boiling in their own moisture and the texture in the finished dish remained different. There does seem to to be some merit to the culinary traditions here.

As for the safety aspects, perhaps this will ease your mind somewhat:

Research minimizes effects of federal produce standards on mushroom industry:

But a new study shows that heat generated during the traditional composting process -- originally developed to kill insect and fungal pests of mushrooms -- is adequate for eliminating human pathogens that might be present, according to researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

If you got sick from eating a dish, the cause may not have been in the nutrition beds the shrooms were grown on.