The moment has come! You’ve harvested a beautiful basket of wild mushrooms, and now you’re standing in your kitchen, wondering how to best prepare them…
We’re here to help!
Wild foraged mushrooms are SUCH a treat, and whether you’re a cooking enthusiast or your specialty is a box of mac n’ cheese, preparing wild mushrooms can make a gourmet chef out of all of us. Cooking with wild foods also deepens our appreciation of the nourishment on our plates, enhances our relationship to the land, and empowers us to reconnect to a very core aspect of being human that has (in many ways) been lost over time.
As always, we want to start with a reminder that it’s VERY IMPORTANT to be 100% certain in your identification of wild foods before consuming.
If you live in the west Michigan area and would like to learn more about how to identify wild mushrooms and edible plants, we’d love to help you advance your knowledge by inviting you to join us for a foraging class or program! We also have a couple of other blogs that may be of interest to you, including an overview about How to Legally Forage in Michigan and a full blog covering tips around Ethical Foraging, Asking for Permission and Wild Tending. Be sure to check those out, if you haven’t already!
With that – are you ready to learn about one of our favorite techniques to prepare wild mushrooms? Read on, friends! Want to skip ahead to the instructions? Click HERE.
Introduction: What is dry sautéing?
Dry sautéing, or dry frying, is as easy as it sounds. In essence this means cooking mushrooms in a hot pan with no oil or fat, in order to cook off water. When done properly, it concentrates flavor and improves texture.
My first time using a dry sauté
The first time I tried dry sautéing mushrooms was in the fall of 2021 while making some ramen. I’d recently been on a trip to Tokyo and had my first taste of “real ramen”, and I was a little obsessed with learning to make my own at home.
I’d also just found my first fall Hen-of-the-Woods earlier that day, and decided to try adding this delicious mushroom in with my other toppings.
I had read about dry-sautéing before, but never tried it.
I heated up my cast-iron pan, threw in my prepped Hen-of-the-woods, and cooked it down for maybe 5 minutes; long enough for the mushrooms to shrink to about half size.
The process was so simple that I felt like I had to do something more, so when I turned off the heat I splashed a little soy sauce on my mushrooms and let them soak up the extra umami flavor while the pan cooled.
My first taste of those mushrooms is one I’ll never forget. It was one of those moments when you go “WHOA, what is this and how did I cook it?”
The combination of fresh wild mushrooms with simple preparation brought out all the best qualities of my gourmet ingredients while enhancing their flavor and texture.
I instantly knew that this was going to be something I’d make over and over again, for myself and for guests.
So, what mushrooms should I dry sauté?
Not all mushrooms are best when dry sautéd, and not all need a dry sauté.
Here’s a list of the mushrooms I do and don’t dry sauté. This is by no means a hard-and-fast rule; feel free to play around with your mushroom recipes to see what you like best.
For me, I dry sauté anything that has that classic spongy mushroom texture, like what you get with crimini / button / portobello mushrooms from the store. I skip the dry sauté for any mushroom that already has a dense or desirable texture. A notable exception to this guideline is puffball mushroom, because I often use my puffballs as a replacement for tofu in recipes and I personally like the spongy texture in that application.
|Dry Sauté||No Dry Sauté|
|Honey mushrooms (Armillaria species)||Black Trumpet mushrooms (Craterellus species)|
|Chanterelle mushrooms (Cantherellus species)||Shrimp of the Woods mushrooms (Entoloma Abortivum)|
|Shaggy Mane and other edible Ink Cap mushrooms (Coprinoids)||Lions Mane and Bear’s Head Tooth mushrooms (Hericium species)|
|Hen of the Woods, AKA Maitake mushrooms (Grifola frondosa)||Resinous polypore mushroom (Ischnoderma resinosum)|
|Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus species)||Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus species)|
|Wine-Cap mushrooms (Stropharia rugoso-annulata)||Morel mushrooms (Morchella species)|
|Wood Blewit mushrooms (Clitocybe nuda)||Pheasant Back mushrooms (Cerioporus squamosus)|
|Bolete mushrooms (the edible ones) including Porcini (Boletus)||Truffle mushrooms (Tuber species)|
|Enoki, AKA Velvet Shank mushrooms (Flamulina velutipes)||Puffball mushrooms (Calvatia gigantea and Lycoperdon species)|
Try a dry sauté on your store bought mushrooms, too! It works beautifully.
The “flavor packing” enhancement of dry sautéing lends itself very well to mushrooms that will be used in soups, on pasta, in stir fries, or used as a topper for burgers and steaks.
HERE ARE THE INSTRUCTIONS:
Step 1: Prep your mushrooms:
- Clean your mushrooms
- Cut them to about double the size you want them to end up
Step 2: Heat a non-stick or cast iron pan to medium-high heat
You want to use either non-stick or cast iron to prevent your mushrooms sticking, and you’re heating up the pan so it’s piping hot before your mushrooms go in, which helps too.
You can dry-sauté with a stainless pan, too, but you’re going to have to get the heat and timing just right to prevent the mushrooms from sticking and leaving a nasty burnt skin on your cooking surface.
Step 3: Add your mushrooms to the pan
Don’t crowd the pan. We’re not steaming your mushrooms, we’re cooking off moisture.
Step 4: Stir often
Stir your mushrooms often. It doesn’t hurt to keep them moving more or less constantly.
Your mushrooms may develop some caramelization, or they may not. If they do, this is a tasty side-effect, but it isn’t the main goal.
Step 5: Cook until the mushrooms have lost ~½ their volume
You’ll see the mushrooms “sweating” on the pan and moisture evaporating off. Keep them moving and cooking until they’ve lost ~1/2 their volume.
You can adjust your balance between flavor and texture by cooking the mushrooms longer or more briefly. ½ is just a guideline.
Optional step: Throw in a tasty liquid of your choice for the mushrooms to soak up
One of my favorite things to do immediately after the dry sauté is to gather the mushrooms together on the still-hot pan, turn off the heat, throw a splash of soy sauce on them, and let them soak up that extra umami flavor. Your dinner guests will think you found miracle mushrooms in the woods!
Or, instead of soy sauce, you can drop a pad of butter on the still-hot pan and stir it all together for an all-time wild-mushroom classic flavor.
This works with any kind of liquid that will add a burst of flavor to your mushrooms.
Bonus: How to make the best browned mushrooms
If your goal is perfectly browned and tasty mushrooms, dry-sauté them first and then give them a regular shallow-pan fry with oil or butter. This will produce better results than any you would get if you didn’t first dry-sauté.
Will you be giving the dry sauté method a try the next time you harvest wild mushrooms?
If you do, drop a note below and let us know how it goes! We hope you enjoy it. And if you’re in the West Michigan area, we hope to see you for an in-person foraging adventure very soon!