How to Tell When Mushrooms Go Bad
Mushrooms are an iffy food for a lot of people. After all, they're fungus, and no one really wants to think that they're willingly eating fungi. However over the years, many have grown increasingly more interested in cooking and consuming mushrooms. They're a low-calorie food item that works great in many vegetarian and ethnic dishes, helping to add texture and flavor without making you put on the pounds.
If you're still hesitant about trying them, it could be because you're afraid of getting sick. After all, they are associated with the psychedelic and poisonous properties of some specific types. You might think that if your mushrooms go bad, you're going to go on a bad trip.
The truth is that bad mushrooms can make you very sick. However, the risk is very low if you're eating store-bought or farm-fresh. There's even less of a risk if you eat them cooked. Still, you obviously don't want to eat bad food. You don't want to take any chances.
Here's what to look for when a mushroom is turning and how to properly store them to prevent spoilage.
Have They Gone Bad?
The answer is yes, if:
They smell bad/funny
They're growing dark spots
They're older than two weeks
They're getting darker
How to Tell if Your Mushrooms Have Gone Bad
Here are some obvious and not-so-obvious signs that your mushrooms need to go in the trash:
- They're slimy. The number one rule-of-thumb when it comes to detecting freshness is that when mushrooms are slimy, they're not good to eat anymore. This could be from sitting in the fridge for too long. While they aren't definitively dangerous at this point, it's still a good common kitchen practice to toss them.
- They have wrinkles. Sometimes mushrooms don't get slimy but they do dry out and get wrinkles. While it's okay to dry out your mushrooms a little bit (since they are fairly moist vegetables anyway), you don't want your mushrooms too wrinkly. So if they're shriveled up looking, it's a safer bet to toss rather than consume.
- They're darker or have dark spots. Dark spots are a sign that they're starting to go bad. The best thing that you can do is to keep an eye on your mushrooms throughout the time they're in the fridge. If you see them getting darker or developing dark spots, it's time to use them or lose them.
- They've been around for two weeks or more. The general consensus in terms of shelf life/storage time with mushrooms is around two weeks in the fridge. Of course, use your best judgment and common sense. If they look, smell, and feel fine, they're probably still safe to eat.
- They emit an odor. Your mushrooms shouldn't have a noticeable or strong odor. If you can smell them, they've gone bad. Of course, if you're sticking your nose right up to them, you'll get a scent, but it should be light and subtle. If you pick up the bag, open it, and have to turn your head, then you've got bad mushrooms.
Proper Storage Techniques
How can you properly store mushrooms so that their shelf life can be optimized? Here are a few tips to consider:
- Let them breathe. Store mushrooms in a way that allows them some air without drying out too much. A paper bag inside the refrigerator is one common way.
- Plastic bags and paper towels. Another way to keep mushrooms relatively fresh is to store them in plastic bags lined with paper towels to capture the moisture. Make sure you change the towels regularly if you aren't using them right away. Find different ways of cooking them so that you use them up in your meals before they go bad!
- Keep them in their sealed wrap. One of the most effective storage techniques is to simply keep them in the sealed containers/bags that they come in. Make sure you don't open the container or tamper with them (there's no need to transfer them) until you're ready to use them.
- Freezing. If you want to freeze up some mushrooms for use later on, this is possible. However because mushrooms retain so much water, it's much more difficult to freeze them when raw. If you're going to do so, make sure you freeze them on parchment paper and then quickly transfer to an air-tight bag with as much air as possible pressed out. The best way is to first cook—either blanch, saute, or steam—the mushrooms and then pack them into airtight containers or freezer bags, whichever has less air.
Remember, being afraid that your mushrooms are going to go bad isn't a good reason not to eat them. Use some common sense, look out for the obvious signs, and enjoy what this fungus can add to your recipes!