The Simmering Trick To Give Mushrooms A Savory Boost

So you're cooking up some mushrooms. There's a good chance you're going to sauté them: Countless recipes recommend some variation on throwing them in a frying pan with butter or oil and perhaps some herbs. (Even if you're planning to bake them up on a pizza or in a frittata, it's generally accepted that you should sauté them instead of adding them raw so that they don't saturate your dish with their moisture; nobody likes a sloppy pie.)

However, there's one trick to make those juicy, pan-cooked mushrooms even more savory: Simmer or boil them in water first. Many recipes for sautéed mushrooms fail to mention this step, perhaps because it seems counterintuitive — mushrooms are known for their high moisture content, so why dunk them in more water beforehand? Plus, if you're the type of cook who values efficiency, this extra step may seem inconvenient. But ultimately, it requires no additional ingredients (except water, of course), and the payoff will be juicier mushrooms that offer a meatier consistency.

For the meatiest mushrooms, try water before oil

Despite the extra step, this is a straightforward cooking method. Firstly, it can't hurt to rinse or clean your mushrooms before cooking to get any dirt off, anyway — it's best to do this right before cooking so that they don't have time to get slimy from sitting in excess water.

Next, place the mushrooms in a pot of salted water and bring it to a simmer. Alternatively, you can bring the water to a simmer and add the mushrooms at that point. It doesn't really matter which approach you take, and there's a scientific reason why: According to New Scientist, mushroom cells contain a substance called chitin, which doesn't break down when exposed to this kind of heat. This means it's extremely difficult to overcook mushrooms, so it doesn't really make a difference whether they go in the pot while it's being heated up or after.

Boil or simmer the mushrooms for 5 to 10 minutes — again, since it's virtually impossible to overcook them, there's no need to set a strict timer here. Ideally, you'll want the mushrooms to be pleasantly tender (and how long this takes may depend on how thickly they're sliced).

One pot or two?

Next up, you can drain the mushrooms and move them to a skillet or frying pan to sauté with some butter or oil and seasonings. But if you want to save on dishes, you can simply leave them in the simmering pan and cook down the water (although this may take longer). This is the preferred approach of Australian chef Jim Fuller, who drew attention to the simmering technique during a guest spot on morning TV (via The Evening Standard) that was later picked up internationally. He recommends waiting until all the water evaporates, then adding oil or other cooking fat and any other savory ingredients like garlic, shallots, or herbs to sauté the mushrooms briefly.

Popular food YouTuber Sauce Stache is also a convert to this method. He notes that the simmer-then-sauté method works with all sorts of mushrooms. When served alongside regular sautéed mushrooms, a taster on Sauce Stache's channel found the boiled mushrooms to be superior, with a deeper flavor and a heartier texture, and this seems to be the general verdict among others who have tried out this hack. It's also been suggested that simmering first makes it easier to brown your mushrooms. Naturally, it's still important to use aromatics and seasonings to help impart that bonus taste in the sautéing stage — but in any case, if you want to take your mushrooms to the next level, just add water.