The first step to working with mushrooms is to buy good ones. What to look for depends on which kind of mushrooms you're buying.
For white or cremini mushrooms, make sure they are firm, plump and clean. The cap should be attached to the stem.
Give portobello mushrooms a sniff. They should smell like the earth and have fresh-looking gills.
Shiitake mushrooms should have smooth, firm caps and should be tender, not dry but not slimy.
All mushrooms absorb water like sponges. Only rinse them if they're going into a salad or soup. If you're pan-frying, just rub them down with a damp paper towel or brush them with a pastry brush.
To Stem or Not to Stem
Shiitakes and portobellos have woody stems that are too fibrous to eat. Discard them or clean them and use them for stocks and broths. Cremini stems are tender and delicious; just trim the very end.
Portobello gills are edible, but will add a dark brown color to your dish. To avoid it, just scrape the gills out with a teaspoon.
The secret to mushroom storage is that they stay fresh longer if you take them out of their container. Wrap them in paper towels placed in open plastic bags (paper bags are even better) and keep them in the fridge. Watch our how-to video for more.