Portobello mushrooms, which are simply large crimini mushrooms, can make a fantastic addition to a variety of recipes, as well as stand on their own as a side dish or even an entree. Some of the best tips for preparing them are to throw out any wrinkled or soft mushrooms and to wipe them with a damp cloth rather than running them under cold water. Avoid adding too much oil during the cooking process, as the mushrooms tend to soak it up, and removing the black scales on the back can make them more palatable for those who prefer less strongly-flavored mushrooms.
Before you start working with the mushrooms, make sure that they are all fresh. It is relatively easy to determine this when it comes to portobellos: if it is firm, smooth, and smells slightly of clean dirt, it is at its peak. Throw away any that do not meet these criteria, including those that are floppy, significantly wrinkled, or smell off.
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when cooking with any type of mushroom is running them under cold water to clean them. This causes most, including portobellos, to tense up, inhibiting the browning process when you cook them. Instead, wipe the mushroom clean with a damp paper towel or clean, wet cloth to remove any visible dirt. Doing so will provide you with the best flavor and texture in whatever dish you are using them.
Portobello mushrooms can trick you during the cooking process, seemingly soaking up every last bit of oil in the pan, and potentially making you think it is necessary to add even more oil. Although portobellos tend to absorb a fair amount of oil during the cooking process, they also release a lot of it as they continue to brown. By adding more oil, you can cause the end dish to become overly greasy, and they typically do not need any more than what you add in the first place in order to cook properly. Instead, lightly spray the pan with cooking spray to prevent sticking if it becomes dry after you initially add oil or butter, and only add one thin coat to portobellos that you plan to roast or grill.
The black scales on the back of these mushrooms are responsible for a lot of their earthy, rich flavor. Unlike button mushrooms, which typically obtain most of their flavor from the seasonings and other ingredients they are cooked with, portobello mushrooms have a unique flavor all their own; while this is preferred by a lot of people, it can be overpowering for some. Removing the scales, which can be done by scraping them out with the edge of a spoon, can diminish some of the mushroom’s intensity, making it safer for serving to picky children or at gatherings where not everyone may like strongly-flavored mushrooms. Even if you love the natural flavor of portobellos, removing the scales may also be a good idea for recipes where you do not want the flavor to overpower that of other ingredients, such as when the mushroom is used in place of bread.