Dry Sautéing Mushrooms

a photo of button mushrooms sautéing in a frying pan

In my humble opinion, the technique known as dry sautéing is a great way to prepare just about any type of mushroom and it’s pretty easy once you get the hang of how mushrooms work.

How Mushrooms Work

So the deal with mushrooms is that they’re like 80-90% water. Also, don’t believe the myth that you should not wash mushrooms because of “too much water”. Mushrooms frequently have dirt, etc. so you want to wash them off. Just run them under water and gently get off any debris. You can then pat them dry with a towel. This goes for any type in my book.

Anyway, depending on the heat level of your frying pan and the type of mushroom, there will come a point in the sautéing that they will start to release their water and start to shrink. This is why, when using this method, you’ll want to slice them into thicker slices or chunks. It will take some time and we don’t want thinly sliced bits getting burnt before the cooking process is complete.

Side note: I’m not one of those mushroom forager people. I am always shook by the statement, “All mushrooms are edible, some only once.” I get mine from the store and unless you’ve taken an expert taught course in identification, I’d urge you to not fuck around and find out in that department.

The Sautéing

This method calls for “moderate” heat. That is going to vary based on what you’re using to cook with. I’ve used a gas stove, an electric stove, and even an open fire while camping. They’re all different, so best bet is to start a little lower (maybe medium-low) and see how it goes.

You’re going to throw your thickly sliced or chopped mushroom bits into the frying pan. Before adding any other seasoning or anything, I let them do their thing for a few minutes while pushing them around with a wooden spoon (you don’t have to have a wooden spoon, just one that won’t damage your non-stick frying pan). At about the 5 minute mark is when I notice the mushrooms releasing some of their moisture into the pan. Between that 3-5 minute mark is when I’ll often add butter or ghee if I want that. If you want to give that a go, you don’t need to add a ton of it. I just add maybe a “pad” of butter or a small spoon of ghee. You don’t want too much moisture going into the pan. You’re essentially just browning the mushrooms, but extra liquid won’t help and you also don’t want them too greasy. You’ll want to keep pushing them around the pan so they get evenly browned.

About 5-10 minutes is all it takes to get these nice and browned. During that later part of the sautéing is when I add any other seasoning. Some of the seasoning/flavoring I’ve experimented with:

  • Cayenne Pepper powder
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Garlic (both freshly diced and dried)
  • Onion (both freshly diced and dried)
  • Parsley (fresh or dried)
  • Paprika (dried)
  • Coriander (dried)
  • Sage (fresh or dried)
  • Rosemary (fresh or dried)
  • Tarragon (fresh or dried)
  • Butter or ghee

As you can see, a lot can go well with mushrooms. One key thing to note though, is they are like little sponges, so they soak up flavor. Don’t go wild if you’re making additions.

Once you do this a few times, you’re going to gain some confidence and make some awesome and flavorful side dishes.

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