Best Way to Store Mushrooms (and why!) post image

Best Way to Store Mushrooms (and why!)

How do you store mushrooms, when different sources give you different instructions?  On the mushroom bag it says to store them in the paper bag.  Mushrooms Canada says that they store well in the commercial container until they are opened, at which point they should be transferred to a paper bag.  Cook’s Illustrated states that the original container is the best container, that they dry out in the paper bag.  Numerous sites have other ideas: paper towel in a plastic bag, paper towel in a paper bag, damp paper towel, etc.

So what do you do?  Well, TipBusters decided to test out the storage tips for you! TipBusters is neither a mushroom expert nor a chef; however, we can test and give you our opinion based on what worked best for us.

TipBusters tested mushroom storage over 2 weeks with 14 storage methods.  These methods fell into four main categories, all stored in the crisper except one:

Paper bags (four methods: loose in a bag out of the crisper, loose in a bag and wrapped with dry and damp paper towels in a bag in the crisper)
Plain plastic bags (two methods: loose in a bag and wrapped with dry paper towels in a bag)
Perforated plastic bags (four methods: loose in a bag, within a paper bag in the perforated bag, and wrapped with dry and damp paper towels in the bag)
Containers (four methods: Styrofoam and glass bowl, with and without dry paper towels)

What did TipBusters find?

#1 – BEST – wrap mushrooms together in a paper towel, inside a perforated plastic bag (I used Ziploc® brand produce bags).

#2 – put mushrooms on a paper towel, either in their original container, or in a glass bowl, with perforated plastic wrap over the top of the container (nothing fancy, just jab holes in some plastic wrap or if they came in a container, use the original wrap – which is plastic wrap with some holes in it)

#3 – inside a brown paper bag, in the crisper (results varied, depending on the moisture content of the refrigerator)

Read on, to find out why.

Research led me to believe that there is a standard formula to keeping mushrooms fresh.  Keep the existing moisture in the mushrooms, while keeping extra moisture out.  Sounds simple, right?  The trick is, how do you achieve that in a refrigerator that may vary in its moisture (humidity)?

If you’re using the mushrooms in the first couple days (which is ideal), storing them in a paper bag in a crisper, or in the commercial packaging will work just fine; however, there are clear differences after a few days.

The answer lies in wrapping the mushrooms in paper towels.  Paper towels appear to handle fluctuations in the moisture in the fridge– they tend not to get soaked with moisture, and insulate the mushrooms so that moisture is not lost.  They breathe. In addition, they provide a barrier between the mushrooms and the perforated plastic, so that the mushrooms breathe and no moisture can build up between the mushrooms and the plastic.

The perforated plastic seems to be just the right combination of keeping excess moisture out, while not trapping condensation inside the bag. An added benefit is that because mushrooms absorb odours easily, this method could aid in keeping odours away from mushrooms (but that’s untested).

Surprised that the brown paper bag did not come first, given that it’s the number one recommended method?  Here’s my theory: the brown paper bag is subject to the whims of the fridge.  When I placed a brown paper bag of mushrooms in the regular area of the fridge (not in the crisper), the mushrooms dried out within a few days.  When I put them in one crisper, they lasted well, when I put them in the other crisper with other vegetables and higher moisture, the bag got wet, and the mushrooms got slimy.  Yes, the brown paper bag breathes; however, it does not handle variations in the fridge’s humidity.  I think that this is why people argue over the best method.  Depending upon the humidity of the fridge, the paper bag could work well.  Sometimes.

Read on to find out the full results of TipBusters’ mushroom storage tests.

There are two ways to buy mushrooms: one is loose, in which case you put them in a paper bag at the store, and the second is in a container, which is usually a Styrofoam style container (sometimes cardboard) with plastic wrap over the top.  If you look closely at the plastic wrap, you’ll see it has numerous air holes in it.

I tested 14 methods of storing white button mushrooms (28 packages of mushrooms in my test refrigerator, since I did each method twice).  I used 14 methods with combinations of paper, plastic, perforated plastic, bowls, and Styrofoam containers.  My test refrigerator is nothing fancy.  No humidity controlled areas, just a standard refrigerator with crisper drawers in the bottom.

There are 3 issues as mushrooms ‘go bad’.  One is that they dry out (and shrivel up).   The cap also starts to open on the bottom.  Two is that they go brown.  And three, if they’re too moist, is that they start to feel slimy.

Before storage, three tips: choose mushrooms with closed caps (the underneath of the cap is attached to the stem), do NOT wash, and do not leave them out of the fridge for an extended period of time.  Put them away immediately, or they will turn brown and hard quickly.

I tested the mushrooms for 2 weeks of storage; not that you may necessarily want to keep them that long, but I really wanted to know which method had longevity.

Results:

Plain plastic bag storage:

Mushrooms in the plain plastic bag were slimy (too much moisture)
Mushrooms in a dry paper towel and in a plain plastic bag went brown quickly (too much moisture)

Perforated plastic bag storage:

Mushrooms in the perforated plastic bag were slimy (too much moisture)
**Mushrooms in a dry paper towel and in a perforated plastic bag lasted longest
Mushrooms in a damp paper towel and in a perforated plastic bag were slimy (too much moisture)
Mushrooms in a paper bag and in a perforated plastic bag were slimy (too much moisture) – the brown paper bag got damp

Paper bag storage:

Mushrooms in a paper bag on a shelf dried out within 3 days (moisture left the mushrooms)
Mushrooms in a paper bag in the crisper varied – some were good, some slimy if the crisper was moist (the bag itself was damp in that case)
Mushrooms in a dry paper towel in a paper bag were slimy after 1 week (did not breathe enough)
Mushrooms in a damp paper towel in a paper bag were slimy after 1 week (did not breathe enough)

Container storage:

Mushrooms in original Styrofoam container with original perforated plastic over top were good for 1 week, but then became slimy (too much moisture in the bottom)
Mushrooms in glass bowl with perforated plastic over top were good for 1 week, but then became slimy (too much moisture in the bottom)
Mushrooms on top of paper towel in glass bowl with perforated plastic over top were good, and lasted second longest

So, in a nutshell, if you’re going to use the mushrooms within a couple days, by all means, keep them in their paper bag.  But if you want to keep mushrooms for more than a couple days, wrap them in paper towel, and put them in a perforated plastic bag.  If you don’t have any perforated plastic bags, put them in a bowl on paper towel and cover the bowl with plastic wrap that you’ve punctured holes in.

Keep the moisture that’s already in the mushrooms in, keep the excess moisture out, that’s the trick.

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{ 8 comments… add one }

  • MCT August 2, 2014 at 2:30 am edit

    Awesome !

    I now know more about mushroom storage than any mortal has a right to !

    Reply
  • Kevin Ashton May 28, 2014 at 6:42 am edit

    Sorry but your advice about how to store mushrooms in the fridge is both too complicated and fails to point out, where you store your mushrooms in the fridge is as important as how and in what.

    Most people regardless of their method of storeage (brown paper bag or original container) usually put their mushrooms in the crisper/salad box…which is the worst place for it. This is because there is less air circulation inside your crisper boxes.
    So who am I to offer this advice?
    well google chef kevin ashton and find out
    I’m originally from England and besides working in the UK I have worked in Holland, Bermuda and Washington DC and some very top restaurants and hotels and have cooked for a long list of VIPs including American Presidents and Royality.

    In professional kitchens mushrooms are not stored in brown paper bags…
    So here is what you do……
    Before touching any food stuffs, wash your hands well using antibacterial soap making sure your hands are scrupulously clean and dry. Clean hands will increase the shelf life of all fresh foods.
    Remove the cellophane and check there are no wet mushrooms at the bottom of the punnet.

    If there was any condensation underneath the cellophane then remove all the mushroom onto a clean dry surface, line the punnet with a sheet of paper towel and then gently put back the mushrooms. Now store them in the fridge but not in the crisper /salad box, instead place them on the shelf just above leaving them uncovered so they stay dry.

    After some days they will start to dehydrate and go wrinkly but that is fine, its just extending the shelflife. If you did place a sheet of papertowel in the punnet change it if it is wet.

    Wild Mushrooms
    Most wild mushrooms particularly Oyster and Enoki mushrooms absorb moisture quicker than ordinary button mushrooms so be sure to inspect them carefully before you buy. When you get them home (if you are not intending to use them that day) remove the cellophane and after checking them out definitely line the punnet with paper towel and place the Oyster mushrooms fin side down on the towel and replace the towel if it gets wet.

    If your Enoki (straw) mushrooms are starting to get wet you can also trim off 2cm (1 inch) off the bottom (the root part that holds the mushrooms together) to seperate the mushrooms and put them on dry paper towel.
    If you want to see the photos to help you understand my instructions just click on this link.
    http://wannabetvchef.blog.co.uk/2014/05/11/tip-of-the-week-how-to-store-mushrooms-in-your-fridge-18423617/

    Reply
  • herschelian April 18, 2014 at 2:20 am edit

    Your advice really works – thanks SO much! I live in Beijing and at one market I can buy absolutely wonderful mushrooms – many varieties, including some I have never seen or heard of. The thing is that you buy them loose buy weight – none of the careful packaging you get in the west. so unless I cooked them within 24 hours they would deteriorate quite rapidly (either dry out or go slimy). This was not always convenient. Now I have been using your perforated ziplock bag with mushrooms loosely wrapped in paper towel method – Ta Da! problem solved, and it is really simple. Xie xie! (thank you)

    Reply
  • Betty October 7, 2013 at 3:47 pm edit

    Thank you for all the testing and the article. Do they have to be put in the refrigerator? I bought three packages recently, and I left them in the original containers and put them in a large shopping bag in my laundry room. They lasted six days. I would like to have them last longer because, during special sales, I buy more than I can quickly consume.

    Reply
  • Pambi April 1, 2013 at 3:06 pm edit

    I’ve tried so many varied, complicated theories for storing mushrooms, that I’ve simply decided to dehydrate them, and call it a day ! LOL.
    Sure, after using what’s desired, the remaining few can remain ok for a few days, but I often find SUPER sales on them and end up buying large quantities at that time.
    Dehydrating them, when nicely fresh from the store, is a terrific way to have them handy, and not take up much room.
    REhydrating them is super-simple (usually about 15-30 mins in WINE or a watery recipe like soup.
    Hubbly just brought home some gorgeous large whites, and unless I figure out a good recipe for fresh ones in a day or two, they’ll be dried and ready for whenever.
    :-)

    Reply
  • KB September 29, 2012 at 10:48 am edit

    This applies only to white button mushrooms, the most common kind. Shiitake, in contrast, loves a waxed paper bag. It will last two or three weeks this way in a crisper.

    Good article.

    Reply
  • sam peri October 26, 2011 at 11:47 pm edit

    why other vegetables do have this problem?? Is it because mushrooms absorb more water???

    Reply
    • Heath Cadriel June 14, 2014 at 12:25 pm edit

      Because mushrooms are mainly water depending on type of mushrooms anywhere from 90% to 60% Water by wieght. They are basically edible sponges and like a sponge can get slimy and nasty when left wet

      Reply

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