It’s no secret that some mushrooms are toxic. Because of this, many are wary of accidentally using edible mushrooms that are already bad. It’s rare for store-bought mushrooms to make you sick. However, they may still make you sick if they’re past their prime or stored wrongly. And now, you may be wondering how to tell if mushrooms are still good.
Mushrooms are still good if they’re not covered with slime. They’re no longer fit for consumption if they have dark spots or are darker in color. The absence of wrinkles is a sign that mushrooms are still good, except if they’re dried.
Just because mushrooms no longer look as pristine as the day you bought them doesn’t mean that you should dispose of them.
In some instances, cooking them right away can help extend their life for a day or two. It’s important to use your different senses to know whether or not mushrooms are still suited to be enjoyed.
If you love mushrooms but hate the fact that you don’t know them very well, read on.
Below, you will come across some helpful tips and tricks on how to tell if mushrooms are still good or should be thrown away.
Different Types of Mushrooms
Mushrooms come in all shapes and sizes. Thanks to their different flavors and textures, the possibilities are endless. While there are more than 50,000 types of mushrooms, not all of them are edible and make it to our plates.
Here are 10 of the most commonly used mushrooms for creating all sorts of culinary masterpieces…
- White mushrooms. Up to 90% of mushrooms people eat are white mushrooms. It doesn’t really come as a big surprise since they have a mild flavor that goes so well with a variety of ingredients. What’s more, white mushrooms are some of the few mushrooms that can be eaten raw.
- Portobello mushrooms. One of the reasons why portobello mushrooms are loved by many is that their texture is very similar to meat. These mushrooms are especially popular in Italian cooking, commonly added to sauces and pasta dishes. Portobello mushrooms can be as big as the palm of the hand.
- Crimini mushrooms. Put simply, crimini mushrooms are young portobello mushrooms. This is why they are also known as “baby bellas”. Crimini mushrooms can be used interchangeably with white mushrooms, although they have a darker color and a stronger flavor.
- Shiitake mushrooms. Shiitake is the Japanese word for “oak fungus”. Needless to say, shiitake mushrooms grow on oak trees. However, the majority of those being sold at supermarkets are cultivated. Fresh shiitake mushrooms have a mild woodsy taste and smell. Dried ones pack a more intense flavor.
- Maitake mushrooms. The name makes it clear that maitake mushrooms are native to Japan. However, they are native to some parts of the US, too. For instance, they grow abundantly east of the Mississippi River in late summer and early fall. Maitake mushrooms have an earthy smell and a meaty flavor.
- Oyster mushrooms. Fret not if you don’t like the taste and texture of oysters. Oyster mushrooms are called such because they look (and not taste) like oysters. Because of their delicate flavor and aroma, oyster mushrooms are commonly added to soups and vegetable stir-fries.
- Enoki mushrooms. There are many things that make enoki mushrooms complete head-turners. They have very small, shiny caps on top of their long stems. They can be eaten raw and have a satisfying crunch. In the wild, enoki mushrooms grow on numerous trees, but many of them are cultivated.
- Beech mushrooms. Beech mushrooms got their name from the fact that they usually grow on fallen beech trees. They come in clusters, and their brown caps are crunchy and possess a sweet and nutty flavor. While they can be eaten raw, uncooked beech mushrooms have a bitter taste.
- King trumpet mushrooms. Sometimes called “king oyster mushrooms” because they are the largest members of the oyster mushroom family, king trumpet mushrooms are loved for their thick and meaty stems. That is why they make for excellent ingredients for vegetarian versions of various meat dishes.
- Chanterelle mushrooms. While they grow in the wild, chanterelle mushrooms are also cultivated. However, it can be extremely difficult to grow them. It’s for this reason why they are some of the most expensive mushrooms. By the way, chanterelle mushrooms come in many colors, from yellow, orange to white.
Each one of the above-mentioned mushrooms has something unique and exciting to offer.
However, to make sure that they can make every meal delicious and health-giving, too, mushrooms need to be cooked while they are still good.
Keep on reading to know whether mushrooms should end up in a pot or the garbage bin.
How to Tell If Mushrooms are Spoiled
Some telltale signs that mushrooms are bad are quite obvious.
Unfortunately, some of them are not easy to recognize.
It’s because of this why you should carefully inspect mushrooms before using them. This is especially true if they have been sitting in the refrigerator for a long time already.
The good news is that it’s not that difficult to determine whether or not mushrooms are spoiled. However, you should have an idea of the things to look for.
Here are some of the indicators that you should think twice before using mushrooms…
One of the first few signs that mushrooms are in the process of going bad is being covered with slime. Mushrooms are made up of lots of water.
The presence of slime is an indicator that the water content of mushrooms is leaking out from the cells. Besides being slimy, you may notice a dark-colored liquid in the bottom of the packaging.
Most of the time, mushrooms become slimy if they have been sitting in the refrigerator for some time. Slime may also form if mushrooms are stored in a container with lots of moisture trapped in it.
If the sliminess is not that bad, you may wipe off the slime with a paper towel and cook mushrooms immediately.
This will help extend their life for another day — it’s a good idea to consume all of them within 24 hours. If the sliminess is extensive, it’s a much better idea to toss mushrooms away.
Just a couple of things to keep in mind before we proceed with the next sign of spoilage:
- Some mushrooms are naturally slimy. There are wild mushrooms that are covered with slime. However, it’s unlikely that you will come across them at supermarkets — cultivated mushrooms are the ones being sold at supermarkets, which means that they should not be slimy.
- Some mushrooms dry up rather than form slime. In some instances, mushrooms end up shriveled rather than wind up slimy. If mushrooms are hard and withered and you are pretty sure that you didn’t place them in a food dehydrator to dry, get rid of them ASAP.
It’s perfectly fine for mushrooms to become kind of wrinkly after some time. This means that they are losing some of their water content.
However, it’s a completely different matter if they are shrunken and packed with wrinkles.
Some bad mushrooms that are wrinkly are hard and dehydrated. Other bad mushrooms with a lot of wrinkles are mushy. Most of the time, they are shiny and slimy, too.
Either way, consider disposing of wrinkly mushrooms. They will not poison you alright, but they will make your dishes less than stellar.
Inspecting mushrooms stored in the refrigerator every day or so is good practice.
The goal is to observe their color. As soon as mushrooms begin to appear darker, it’s a good idea to use them right away.
Otherwise, they will only keep on getting darker and darker until such time that they are no longer fit for human consumption.
A noticeable change in color is a telltale sign that mushrooms are in the early stages of decomposition.
The gills located in the underside of the caps are usually the first ones to darken. This is why you should always remember to check out the gills before using mushrooms that have been in the fridge for several days already.
Sometimes, mushrooms may not appear darker while they are in the process of going bad. Instead, you may notice dark-colored spots forming on them.
Fortunately, the presence of dark spots doesn’t necessarily mean that mushrooms are spoiled. If there are only a few dark spots, you may slice them off before cooking mushrooms.
It’s perfectly normal for mushrooms to smell earthy — they almost smell like dirt. You won’t pick up the characteristic smell of mushrooms unless you have your nose right next to them.
However, it’s a different thing if you can smell mushrooms from afar. Be wary if you open a bag of mushrooms and have to turn your head away because of the strong smell coming from the packaging.
A foul smell is a sure sign that mushrooms should be thrown away instead of eaten.
Most of the time, spoiled mushrooms give off a pungent smell that’s similar to ammonia. In some instances, bad mushrooms produce a fishy odor.
No matter the case, refrain from using mushrooms if they no longer smell earthy.
Fresh mushrooms should be stored in the refrigerator to extend their shelf life. However, it doesn’t mean that the fridge can keep them from spoiling.
Mushrooms can still go bad in the refrigerator.
This is especially true if they are stored in the wrong way, such as placing them in an airtight container together with trapped moisture.
Generally speaking, mushrooms can stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Mushrooms stored in the fridge longer than that will begin to show some signs of spoiling.
If mushrooms have been stashed in the refrigerator for two weeks or more, it’s a great idea to throw them away.
This is true whether there are only a few or a lot of indicators that they are already bad. The sooner you use mushrooms after buying them, the better they taste and the more health-giving benefits you will enjoy.
Buying and Storing Guide
The secret to keeping mushrooms fresh for a long time is getting your hands on the perfect mushrooms.
No matter how well you store mushrooms, they won’t last for a long time if they are in a terrible condition in the first place.
Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about buying and storing mushrooms…
How to tell when mushrooms are fresh?
Mushrooms are fresh if they appear smooth and free of darkening or dark spots. They are good if they are firm to the touch. The caps and stems should not be slippery — they should be dry but not dried out and wrinkly. The presence of slime and a pungent or fishy odor means that mushrooms are bad.
When shopping for mushrooms at the supermarket, it’s a better idea to opt for those that are loose instead of packaged together. This will allow you to get your hands on only the freshest mushrooms of the bunch.
Buying loose mushrooms is also a great way to save money. Most of the time, loose mushrooms are easier on the pocket than packaged ones.
Also, you can buy the exact number of mushrooms that you need. Due to this, you can avoid throwing away spoiled food and wasting money.
Should I wash mushrooms before storing them?
Mushrooms contain lots of water. Washing them will make them absorb more water, which will cause them to become mushy and go bad faster. This is especially true if they are stored in the wrong way. As much as possible, clean mushrooms with the help of a pastry brush or dry or damp paper towel only.
There are a couple of things that you may do to clean mushrooms with dirt on them…
- Use a brown paper bag. Place mushrooms in a brown paper bag. Give the bag a vigorous shake for a few seconds. Fish mushrooms out of the brown paper bag.
- Use a colander. Place mushrooms in a colander. Dunk the colander in a bowl of cold water and swish the mushrooms around. Transfer mushrooms in another colander lined with some paper towels.
How long are mushrooms good for in the fridge?
Mushrooms will stay fresh in the refrigerator for seven days to two weeks. It all depends on the condition of mushrooms before refrigerating them and how they are stored in the refrigerator. Cooking mushrooms make it possible for them to be stored in the refrigerator for another three to five days.
It’s important to protect mushrooms from moisture while they are stored in the refrigerator. Otherwise, they will be covered with slime in no time, making them go bad and unsuitable for cooking faster than usual.
Before storing fresh mushrooms in the refrigerator, transfer them to a brown paper bag. Fold the top of the brown paper bag and place it in the refrigerator.
The brown paper bag itself will absorb moisture. You may also place fresh mushrooms in a Ziploc bag together with a paper towel. Do not seal the Ziploc bag completely to let trapped moisture escape.
Never place fresh mushrooms in a tray covered with cling wrap or an airtight container when refrigerating them. Any trapped moisture will shorten their shelf life.
How long are mushrooms good for in the freezer?
Most mushrooms will stay fresh in the freezer for nine months to one year. It is very important to store fresh mushrooms in the freezer to enjoy fresh mushrooms after thawing them. Mushrooms stored in the freezer are best for dishes that will be cooked, such as stews, soups, casseroles and pasta.
There is one problem when it comes to freezing mushrooms. When thawed, they will look mushy. It’s because mushrooms are 90% water, and freezing them will cause their water content to crystallize.
Fortunately, there is a way to keep the properties of mushrooms intact after freezing and defrosting them. All you have to do is sauté mushrooms before storing them in the freezer.
Allow them to cool to room temperature and place them in a Ziploc bag with much of the air squeezed out.
Frozen mushrooms can be left in the refrigerator to thaw overnight. However, frozen mushrooms no longer need thawing if they will be added to dishes that will be cooked thoroughly.
How long are mushrooms good for at room temperature?
Fresh and cooked mushrooms will last for only 12 to 24 hours at room temperature. To extend their shelf life, fresh and cooked mushrooms should be stored in the fridge. The same is true for opened canned mushrooms. Dried mushrooms can be stored in a cool and dry place inside an airtight container.
Only dried and canned mushrooms can be stored at room temperature.
Dried mushrooms in their original packaging can stay fresh for two to three years. Sometimes, they can last longer.
If the original packaging is opened, dried mushrooms should be transferred to an airtight container. You may also keep dried mushrooms in the refrigerator to extend their shelf life if you live where it’s hot and humid.
After opening, canned mushrooms should be transferred to an airtight container and stored in the refrigerator. When refrigerated, an opened can of mushrooms can last for four to seven days.
Just Before You Cook Mushrooms
Mushrooms are packed with nutrients and low in calories. They have a meaty texture, which makes them the perfect additions to an assortment of vegetarian dishes.
However, it’s important that you use fresh mushrooms to enjoy the many health benefits they bring and make every mealtime a delightful experience.
Technically, mushrooms are not plants. Still, they are classified and eaten as vegetables.
And like vegetables, it’s a must that you store mushrooms the right way. If they have been stored in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks already, use your senses when inspecting them.
If mushrooms are slimy, darkened, dried out, or smelly, throw them away and get your hands on a fresh batch.