With their subtle flavor, tender texture, and stellar nutritional profile, white button mushrooms make a valuable addition to many dishes. Read on for a complete beginner’s guide to selecting, storing, preparing and cooking with versatile white button mushrooms.
A Brief Background on White Button Mushrooms
White button mushrooms, scientifically known as Agaricus bisporus, originated in grasslands throughout Europe and North America. They have a characteristic small, smooth white cap topping a short cylindrical stem. The gills on the underside start out pinkish then turn chocolate brown as the mushroom matures.
In the early 1900s, white button mushrooms became the very first mushroom variety commercially cultivated in the United States. Their hardy nature, quick growth cycle, and bland, adaptable flavor made them ideal for mass production.
The same qualities that lend well to large-scale agriculture make white button mushrooms a favorite for the home cook. They have a subtle earthy taste that adapts well to ingredients cooked with them.
And don’t let their plain appearance deceive you – white mushrooms deliver impressive health benefits. They provide immune-strengthening selenium and ergothioneine. The B vitamins riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid support energy metabolism. They also supply copper for nerve signaling and plenty of potassium and phosphorus for cellular function.
With this stellar nutritional resume, let’s explore how to select, store, and use white button mushrooms at home.
Selecting Fresh, High Quality White Button Mushrooms
When buying white button mushrooms, prioritize freshness for best flavor and shelf life:
- Look for mushrooms with smooth, bright white caps. Avoid any wrinkling, pitting or dark water-logged areas.
- The gills beneath should be closed and light pink. As mushrooms age, the gills darken and expose the spores, creating a messy black powder.
- Choose mushrooms with thick, dry stems. Wet or slimy stems signal spoilage.
- Give mushrooms a gentle squeeze – they should feel firm yet slightly springy when fresh.
- For pre-sliced mushrooms, check that the slices look fresh with no drying or browning around the edges.
Also consider the source and packaging when purchasing:
- Buy organic mushrooms when possible to avoid pesticide residue. Conventional mushroom crops tend to use numerous chemicals.
- Select mushrooms loose if available rather than pre-packaged to check quality. Or purchase container varieties that allow visibility.
- If buying pre-packaged mushrooms, inspect through the packaging for signs of moisture and off-coloring. Avoid any excess moisture inside packaging.
Proper freshness equals better taste and nutrition, so take a few extra moments to assess mushroom quality before purchasing.
Key Differences Between White, Cremini, and Portobello Varieties
At the grocery store, you may notice multiple packages of white mushrooms bearing different labels. What sets them apart?
White – The most common immature form with small caps about 1-2 inches wide on short stems. Delicate, mild taste.
Cremini – A more mature stage of white mushrooms with tan brown caps 2-3 inches wide. Richer flavor than white but still mild.
Portobello – Fully grown white mushrooms with open dark brown caps 4-6 inches in diameter and meaty texture. Robust earthy flavor.
All three varieties share the same health benefits. Their main differences come down to size, color, and subtle flavor nuances.
Dried, Frozen, and Other Forms of White Button Mushrooms
In addition to fresh white mushrooms, you can also find:
Dried – Dehydrated white mushroom pieces. Rehydrate by simmering in soups and sauces. Intensifies umami flavor.
Frozen – Often pre-sliced and quick to defrost to use in recipes. Retain color and texture better than canned.
Canned – Offer convenience but lose some texture. Best used in casseroles, soups, sauces, not salads.
Powdered – Finely ground dried mushrooms used as flavor boosting seasoning. Contains potent umami.
Mushroom broth – Sold as stock concentrates or bouillon made by simmering dried mushroom pieces. Infuses dishes with deep savory essence.
Prepping White Button Mushrooms for Cooking
To ready your mushrooms for cooking, just take a few simple steps:
Cleaning – Wipe caps and stems clean with a damp paper towel or kitchen towel. Avoid soaking or washing with water to prevent sogginess.
Stemming – Twist stems off rather than slicing to minimize waste. Save stems to make broths.
Slicing – Use a sharp knife to slice mushrooms evenly. Keep thickness uniform to cook at same rate. Common slices:
- Thinly sliced – 1/8 inch for sautés
- Thick sliced – 1/4 inch for roasting
- Quartered – Cut in quarters for soups, stews
Last minute prep – Only slice just before cooking to prevent moisture loss and oxidation.
Other prep – Consider blanching or brining for added flavor and texture.
Now you’re ready to cook your mushrooms! Let’s explore the most popular preparation methods.
Sauteing White Button Mushrooms
Sauteing brings out mushrooms’ rich, earthy essence. Follow these guidelines:
Oil/butter – Coat pan with olive oil, avocado oil or butter. Aim for 1-2 tbsp per 1 lb mushrooms.
Temperature – Heat pan over medium-high. Avoid high heat that causes moisture loss.
Cook time – Saute 4-5 minutes until browned and tender, stirring occasionally. Add any aromatics like garlic at the end.
Seasoning – Lightly salt after cooking. Pepper, herbs, spices complement.
Uses – Top burgers, tacos, bruschetta. Mix into rice, pasta, omelets.
Some sauteed mushroom recipe ideas include:
- Thyme and garlic mushrooms
- Mushroom onion frittata
- Shiitake mushroom taco meat
- Wild mushroom risotto
Grilling Portobello Mushroom Caps
Meaty portobellos are ideal candidates for grilling. Follow these tips:
Prep – Clean caps thoroughly. Remove stems. Brush both sides generously with oil.
Temperature – Grill on medium-high. Watch closely to avoid burning.
Time – Grill gill side down first for 3-4 minutes. Flip and grill 2-3 more minutes.
Seasoning – Sprinkle with salt, herbs and spices as desired.
Uses – Chop grilled portobellos into salads, pasta, pizza. Use whole as burger buns.
Some recipe ideas include:
- Balsamic grilled portobello burgers
- Portobello fajitas with peppers and onion
- Greek salad with grilled portobello and feta
- Grilled portobello mushroom flatbread pizza
Making Creamy Mushroom Soups and Stocks
Chopped white button mushrooms lend flavor to a wide array of soups:
Aromatics – Saute mushrooms with aromatics like onion and garlic first.
Liquids – Add broth, coconut milk, pureed beans or vegetables.
Herbs/spices – Complement mushrooms with thyme, rosemary, sage.
Blending – Puree the soup fully or slightly for a rustic texture.
Garnishes – Finish with parsley, chives, croutons, or roasted mushrooms on top.
Some nourishing soup recipes to try include:
- Cream of mushroom soup
- Mushroom miso ramen soup
- Mushroom lentil soup
- Mushroom orzo spinach soup
The stems can also be saved to make savory mushroom stock. Simmer stems in water with aromatics then strain.
Cooking White Mushrooms into Pasta, Salads, and More
Beyond soups and sautees, incorporate white mushrooms into:
Pasta – Saute sliced mushrooms and add to pasta. Make mushroom bolognese sauce. Use finely chopped in lasagna.
Salads – Toss raw, thinly sliced mushrooms into green, grain and potato salads. Grill portobellos for warm salads.
Pizza – Top pizza with sliced white mushrooms, spinach and feta. Add portobellos and fontina.
Sandwiches – Mix sauteed mushrooms into burger patties. Stack grilled portobellos on sandwiches and paninis.
Breakfast – Make mushroom, spinach and goat cheese omelets. Add mushrooms to egg muffin cups.
Storing and Freezing White Button Mushrooms
Follow proper storage methods for best-tasting, safe mushrooms:
Fridge – Place fresh mushrooms in paper bag or perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator. Use within 3-7 days.
Freezing – Blanch sliced mushrooms 1 minute in boiling water, then freeze in a single layer on a tray before bagging.
Thawing – Thaw frozen mushrooms overnight in the refrigerator or immerse bag in cold water.
Reheating – Saute thawed mushrooms over high heat until heated through before eating.
Discover Versatile, Nutritious White Button Mushrooms
With this beginner’s guide, you now have all the knowledge to select, store, prepare and cook with white button mushrooms at home. Enjoy their subtle flavor and stellar nutrition in your favorite recipes. Their versatility ensures you can use white mushrooms in everything from soups and salads to pizza, pasta, sandwiches and more.