Different Types Of Mushrooms And How To Use Them

Different Types Of Mushrooms And How To Use Them
Mushrooms are one of the most polarizing foods out there. Those who love them are obsessed with them. Those who hate them won't touch them with a 10-foot pole. And yet, it's not uncommon for people to gain an appreciation for mushrooms later in life, or to find that they actually enjoy a certain mushroom-based meal after swearing off the fungi completely. Perhaps it's not mushrooms that some people dislike, but how they're prepared.

Beyond the preparation factor, however, this phenomenon illustrates the diversity of mushrooms and how they don't all taste the same. In fact, according to the Bradbury Science Museum, while only 120,000 types of mushrooms have been identified, scientists estimate that there are anywhere from 2.2 to 3.8 million different varieties of mushrooms. Of these, approximately 2,006 species are safe to consume (via IFT). Of course, the knowledge of which mushrooms are safe and which are toxic is of the utmost importance. Unless you are an experienced mushroom forager, you should always consume mushrooms obtained through a licensed retailer or mycologist for your own protection. Aside from the nutritional advantages of consuming mushrooms — like their high levels of antioxidants, and, in some cases, vitamin D (per UCLA Health) — these members of the fungi family are delicious additions to savory meals. Plus, they're pretty fascinating: In fact, mushrooms' DNA structures are more similar to those of humans than plants (via Farmers' Almanac). Let's take a look at some of our favorite mushrooms and how to prepare them.

1. Button mushrooms
The button mushroom is the most commonly available specimen of mushroom. A full 90% of mushrooms consumed in the U.S. are buttons, or champignon mushrooms, per Healthline. They are naturally low in calories, high in vitamin D2, high in protein, high in antioxidants, and may promote heart health. You can consume them raw or cooked, but ultimately the critical aspect of making these fungi delectable rests in how you approach them.

First, you should never soak them in water to clean them, but rather brush them clean with a damp paper towel to remove any loose dirt. There's a lot of debate about this, suggesting that because mushrooms are already 80% water, they don't actually absorb much liquid in the washing process (via Cook's Illustrated). However, they can develop a chewier, slimier texture after being washed, which is the chief complaint we hear from those who dislike mushrooms. Since cultivated button mushrooms are grown in special dirt that has been heat-treated to remove any pathogens, they are not likely to harbor bacteria (via PennState Extension).

We also go the extra step to peel button mushrooms, to help create a meatier and less gritty texture. If you remove the stem of each mushroom, you will notice a flap of skin on the interior of the cap. When you grab that flap with your thumb and index finger, you can easily remove the peel. Once peeled and cleaned, the mushrooms are ready for salads, stuffing, roasting, or sautéing.

2. Cremini mushrooms
Cremini mushrooms, or baby bellas, are actually the teenage version of a portobello mushroom, per WebMD. They tend to be bolder in flavor and slightly meatier in texture than the button, but not quite as replete with umami-forward flavors as the mature portobello. As with button mushrooms, creminis are nutrient-dense. It is also suggested that there is a link between the consumption of creminis and the proliferation of good bacteria in your gut, which can be instrumental in both immune support and better digestion.

In terms of how to handle creminis, they should be cleaned and peeled in the same way that button mushrooms are for the best quality flavor and texture. From there, they are ideal in almost any application, although we are particularly fond of using them in a sausage-stuffed mushroom recipe. The richness of their flavor is somewhat more suited to withstand the spices and fat content of sausage, and their slightly larger size makes them perfect as an appetizer you can just pop into your mouth. Pro tip: You can save the stems of button or cremini mushrooms for use in making a rich mushroom broth. Simply collect them in a Ziploc bag and freeze until you are ready to utilize them.

3. Portobello mushrooms
The most mature version of the Agaricus bisporus species of mushroom — which includes the button and the cremini — portobellos are one of only 10 varieties of mushroom cultivated commercially (via WebMD). Their distinct size and texture make them a popular mushroom to use in substituting meat for vegetarian and vegan recipes, although we maintain they are delicious in a variety of applications.

While you should handle the cleaning and peeling of portobellos the same way you do button and cremini mushrooms, you should take one additional step prior to using them. Because they have dense gills, scoop those gills out using a teaspoon. The gills can contribute to a chewier texture when cooked and can retain a somewhat unpleasant gritty feel.

As for the best ways to use portobellos, they can certainly be stuffed for a more hearty entree-sized portion, but we love them grilled and roasted. The application of intense heat allows them to caramelize, accentuating their robust flavor. Try seasoning them with an Alderwood or Hickory smoked sea salt after cooking to draw out even more of their umami notes. Another way to amp up their flavor is to marinate them in balsamic vinegar before roasting or grilling. Once cooked, you can use them on salads, as a simple side dish, a topping on a mushroom pizza, or even as a low-carb alternative to a burger bun.
Source: www.thedailymeal.com
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