Mushrooms are a favorite pizza topping. But, it’s not like adding pepperoni, onions, garlic, or basil to the pie. It’s somewhat more involved, albeit not difficult or time consuming to do. This is your all-inclusive guide about how to prepare mushrooms for pizza.
This will include how to clean the mushrooms along with cutting and precooking them. In general, you want to avoid washing them and ensure they’re dry. Also, they should be small enough to cook well with the rest of the toppings.
If you don’t handle and precook the mushrooms before putting them on the pizza, you will not like the results. However, ones that come dehydrated don’t usually need any preparation. Just crush and sprinkle them over the top in a similar manner as shredded cheese.
The first, and most important, step in how to prepare mushrooms for pizza is cleaning them. However, not every mushroom requires or should have the same treatment. So, you’ll have to pay close attention to the type of mushroom you have and the form it comes in.
Dried, Canned, Fresh, or Wild
There are some notable differences between dried, canned, fresh and wild foraged. Since canned mushrooms are good to go, there’s no cleaning necessary. You just strain the water out and use a kitchen towel to squeeze out the excess.
Dry mushrooms also don’t require cleaning. If you want them tender, soak them in warm water for a few minutes to reconstitute them. Then dry them on paper towels. However, in terms of pizza, dry mushrooms provide a delightful crunchiness.
While with some types of mushrooms you should only brush off the debris, others require a good scrub under running water. This is especially true with wild-foraged fungi, where critters and dirt lodge into every part of them. The following list contains various mushrooms used on pizza and their preferred method for cleaning:
- Button: Button mushrooms are the most common type used on pizza. You can choose to rinse them a little bit, soak them in water or use a soft-bristled brush to sweep away debris. If you rinse them, be sure you dry them off so they don’t get too soggy on your pizza.
- Chanterelle: In most cases, you only need to brush chanterelles off with a paper towel or vegetable brush. Late-season chanterelles will have more mud and dirt, thus requiring rinsing but you must thoroughly dry them. Also, only clean as many as you plan to eat. Wet chanterelles do not store well and they’ll go bad.
- Cremini: Creminis are heavy with water, so you can rinse them and let them air dry while you prepare your dough for the pizza. If you buy these mushrooms at the store, it removes a lot of the work needed to clean them and you don’t have to rinse them.
- Morel: The only mushroom requiring water to clean them is morels. This is because little white worms and other forest debris lodge into the gills and brain-looking cap. Even if you buy them from the store, you should still wash them well. However, some people recommend freezing them to vacate their unwanted inhabitants and then briefly cleaning them in water.
- Porcini: Never use water to clean porcini mushrooms. It will make them incredibly soggy and unappetizing for your pizza. Plus, the water will force your mushrooms to deteriorate before you get to enjoy them. Use a paper towel to clean off any undesirable particles from the surface.
- Portobello: As the crème de la crème of the mushroom world, Portobellos do not require much cleaning. In fact, you shouldn’t have to clean them at all. If some debris adheres to the surface, use a your clean fingers or a veggie brush. Only wash them if you find them in the wild and be sure they’re thoroughly dry.
- Shitake: Because shitake mushrooms come dried, you’ll never have to clean them. They’re ready to cook as is or rehydrate them first before prepping for use on a pizza. Many people swear by adding them to the top of pizza dry since they make a delightful crunch against the gooey cheese and chewy crust.
You want the mushrooms at an edible size, so cutting them is next. Once again, this will depend on the type of mushroom and its size in how to prepare mushrooms for pizza. Regardless, you can choose between chopping, slicing or quartering them.
If there are any stems attached, remove them by using a gentle twisting motion. In case the stems are stubborn, use a paring knife and cut them off with a delicate touch.
The knife you use will be crucial. For small or delicate mushrooms, like buttons or morels, use a paring knife. If you have something thick and meaty, like Portobello, then use a sharp, thin kitchen knife to slice them. Remember, you want these as thin as possible so they cook evenly with the cheese, crust and other toppings.
Precook Your Fungi
Never use raw mushrooms on your pizza. Even if they’re as thin sliced as they come, they will not turn out the way you want. The only exception here is if they’re dried, such as is the case with shitake mushrooms. For all others you want to either grill or sauté with olive oil or butter.
Grilling mushrooms is an excellent idea because it helps remove all the moisture. This option is good for mushrooms you had to wash with trepidation. You should brush olive oil onto delicate and small mushrooms and then stick them onto a skewer. They will be easier to turn and you’ll prevent them from falling through the grill grates.
In most cases, sautéing will be the way to go. Simply put a tablespoon of olive oil or real unsalted butter in a large skillet preheated on medium-high heat. Ensuring the skillet is piping hot is the trick to this. It will force excess moisture out while giving them a delicious texture.
Also, do not overcrowd the mushrooms. Otherwise, they’ll just steam rather than sauté. Do them in batches if necessary. This means providing enough space in the pan to let air circulate through the mushrooms.
You can add fresh herbs along with onion and/or garlic at the start of cooking for a flavor burst. You should include salt and pepper toward the end and only cook the mushrooms for a few minutes The resulting sauté should be somewhat soft with a bit of crisp around the edges.
Troubleshooting Pizza Mushrooms
If you’re having problems with taste, texture or appearance of the mushrooms, consider the following tricks below:
- You don’t have to cut every type of mushroom. Smaller mushrooms are best the way they are with a bit of grilling or sautéing beforehand. In some cases, they may be better if you tear them into pieces, such as is the case with Portobellos or chanterelles.
- When sautéing mushrooms, make sure you use just enough oil or butter. Too little will only steam the mushrooms and too much will make them soggy.
- Only cook the mushrooms long enough to exit the excess water and moisture. Over cooking will make them limp and soggy. However, cooking them for too short a time means they won’t bake at the same rate as your pizza.
- In the case you you want crispy, crunchy mushrooms, use dry ones and top your pizza with them prior to putting the pie into the oven.
As long as you follow these techniques in how to prepare mushrooms for pizza, you’ll have a delicious topping for your pie every time. Remember, not every type of mushroom requires cleaning in water and it’s not always necessary to slice or chop them.
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