Drying mushrooms is an excellent technique to preserve seasonal mushrooms that are both delicious and healthy, allowing you to enjoy their benefits throughout the year. Furthermore, having dried mushrooms or mushroom powder in your pantry is not only convenient but also enables you to add a touch of mushroom flavor to your daily meals with ease.
Drying mushrooms is an uncomplicated process, and there are various methods available to suit your needs. Some methods require expensive equipment and electricity, but others utilize natural energy sources such as the sun and wind, which are inexpensive.
In this article, you will discover the benefits of drying mushrooms, including how to dry them using four different methods, with step-by-step instructions. Additionally, you will learn how to store dried mushrooms effectively, which types of mushrooms are best suited for drying, and various ways to incorporate dried mushrooms into your cooking. By the end of this article, you will be equipped with the knowledge necessary to utilize dried mushrooms in your culinary adventures.
Reasons To Dry or Dehydrate Mushrooms
Drying is an effective way to preserve surplus gourmet mushrooms, preventing them from going bad in the back of your refrigerator. Additionally, drying mushrooms can provide a year-round supply of delicious seasonal mushrooms, which is especially helpful if they are not readily available in your area.
When it comes to preserving mushrooms, freezing and drying are the most popular methods. While freezing requires ample freezer space, drying can be done using a shelf or cellar, making it a more convenient option.
Moreover, drying intensifies the umami flavor of certain mushrooms, such as porcini, morel, black trumpet, matsutake, and shiitake mushrooms, which are commonly used in Asian cuisine to enhance the flavor of broths, soups, and stir-fries.
Drying mushrooms is also the first step in making mushroom powder, which is perfect for individuals who do not enjoy the texture of fresh mushrooms. This powder can be added to various beverages and dishes, providing new ways to enjoy mushroom flavors and reap their health benefits.
Finally, drying is an excellent way to utilize damaged mushrooms that you may not want to serve fresh. By drying them, you can salvage their flavor and make use of their health benefits, while also reducing food waste.
What Is The Difference Between Drying And Dehydrating
Drying and dehydrating are two processes used to remove water from mushrooms, but the methods used to extract the water differ.
The term "drying" is typically used when the water removal process involves uncontrolled energy sources like the sun and wind. Examples of drying include hanging wet clothes on a line or waiting for wet paint to dry as the water or solvents evaporate.
In contrast, dehydrating involves using artificial heat to remove water from mushrooms in a controlled environment with specific temperature, humidity, and airflow settings.
The Dehydrating Process
The most popular method for drying mushrooms is by using a dehydrator. To achieve optimal results, it is essential to control the airflow, temperature, and humidity levels.
You can purchase a dehydrator of various shapes and sizes through online retailers, or you may consider building your own customized version if you possess the skills. The dehydrator laboratory offers step-by-step instructions for creating a homemade food dehydrator.
Additionally, those interested in living off the land can learn how to construct a solar-powered dehydrator.
Does The Oven Dry Your Mushrooms
Drying mushrooms in the oven is a viable option for individuals who lack access to a dehydrator or reside in regions with elevated humidity levels. This method is considered one of the most effective ways to dry mushrooms under these circumstances.
4 Ways To Dry Your Mushrooms
The ideal mushroom-drying technique is contingent upon multiple factors such as the desired quantity of mushrooms, your geographical location, and the resources at your disposal. However, there is an assortment of drying methods to choose from, including some that require no specialized equipment.
Below are four distinct methods you can employ to dry your mushrooms:
Numerous individuals believe that using a food dehydrator is the most effective approach to dry mushrooms due to the expediency and simplicity of the process.
Additionally, compared to alternative methods, it offers more comprehensive regulation over temperature and airflow. Moreover, it is easier to maintain the mushrooms' cleanliness, and the equipment's size is usually not cumbersome.
However, for those pondering how to dry mushrooms without access to a dehydrator, there are three other feasible techniques to consider.
In the event that a food dehydrator is unavailable, mushrooms can be effectively dried in a conventional oven. Although the drying duration is slightly extended, it is necessary to monitor and rotate the mushrooms frequently until they are fully dehydrated.
When utilizing an oven for this purpose, it is crucial to exercise caution to ensure that the temperature does not rise to excessively high levels.
Throughout history, individuals have relied on natural air-drying methods such as wind and sun exposure to preserve food, and these techniques can be employed to dry mushrooms without specialized equipment.
However, this process is more time-consuming compared to other drying methods. Furthermore, if the humidity level exceeds 60%, it is essential to be vigilant as the mushrooms may be susceptible to mold growth.
4) Freeze Dryer
Freeze-drying is a highly effective method of extending the shelf-life of mushrooms; however, the cost of acquiring a freeze dryer can be prohibitive for some. This technique employs a vacuum, rather than heat, to remove moisture from frozen mushrooms.
How To Use A Dehydrator For Your Mushrooms
1) Wash The Mushroom
When examining mushrooms, it's common to find various contaminants such as soil, debris, or insects nestled between their delicate gills or along their stems. In preparation for drying mushrooms, it's important to take certain precautions to ensure that they are safe and ready for consumption.
The first step involves trimming and cleaning the mushrooms. To begin, remove any damaged or bruised sections, as well as any tough stems that may not be pleasant to eat. Next, rinse the mushrooms thoroughly under running water with the help of a colander or sieve.
However, it's essential to avoid soaking them as mushrooms are porous and may become waterlogged. It's also worth noting that mushroom stems are edible and can be used in various culinary applications, so there is no need to discard them.
Once cleaned, either pat them dry with a paper towel or place them on a kitchen towel to air dry. Finally, you may proceed to place the prepared mushrooms into a dehydrator.
2) Slice Mushrooms
When it comes to drying mushrooms, the method you choose will depend on the type of mushroom. Generally, it's recommended to slice larger mushrooms before drying, though whole mushrooms can be dried as well.
To prepare your mushrooms for drying, use a sharp knife to slice them into pieces that are 0.2 to 0.4 inches (0.5 to 1 cm) thick. If your goal is to create mushroom powder, you may want to dice them into smaller pieces for easier grinding after drying.
It's important to ensure that your mushroom slices or pieces are of a similar size before placing them in the dehydrator. This will help to ensure that they dry evenly, as larger pieces will take longer to dry than smaller ones.
Additionally, the thickness of the slices will also affect the drying time. If you want to save on electricity, it's best to slice your mushrooms into 0.2 inch (0.5 cm) pieces, as they will dry more quickly than thicker slices.
3) Place The Mushrooms In The Dehydrator
Once you have sliced or prepared your mushrooms for drying, it's important to arrange them properly on your dehydrator trays to ensure they dry evenly. Make sure to place them in a single layer with enough space between each mushroom slice or whole mushroom for adequate air circulation.
If your dehydrator tray has large holes, we suggest lining it with a mesh liner that is cut to the size of the tray. This will prevent small mushroom pieces from falling through the holes and ensure that your mushrooms dry evenly on all sides.
4) Dehydrate Mushrooms
Before placing your prepared mushrooms on the dehydrator trays, it's important to ensure that they are as dry as possible to prevent them from spoiling during the drying process. If needed, gently pat them with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture.
Next, set your dehydrator to a low temperature setting between 110 and 135°F (43 and 57°C) and place the trays inside. Allow the mushrooms to dry until they are completely dehydrated and have a cracker-dry, brittle texture.
The drying time can vary depending on the thickness of the mushrooms and the number of trays in the dehydrator. Typically, drying sliced mushrooms in a dehydrator will take approximately 6 to 8 hours, but it can take anywhere from 4 to 12 hours depending on the specific circumstances.
When To Know Mushrooms Are Done
Properly dried mushrooms should have a cracker-dry and brittle texture, allowing them to break easily. To test if your mushrooms are fully dehydrated, it's important to let them cool completely, as they will become crisper during the cooling process.
Once they have cooled, take a few pieces and try breaking them with your hands. If the mushrooms break easily, then they are ready for storage. However, if the mushrooms bend without snapping, then they need to be returned to the dehydrator for further drying.
Drying In The Oven
1) Wash And Slice Mushrooms
Before drying your mushrooms, it is essential to take the necessary steps to prepare them adequately. The first step involves cleaning and slicing the mushrooms. It is a crucial process that ensures that the mushrooms are free from dirt and any other contaminants that may compromise their quality.
Regardless of whether you choose to use a dehydrator or an oven to dry your mushrooms, the preparation process remains the same. To begin, you can follow steps 1 and 2 of the dehydrator method to clean and slice your mushrooms. By doing so, you can rest assured that your mushrooms will dry effectively, resulting in high-quality dried mushrooms.
2) Preheat The Oven
To properly dry mushrooms using an oven or dehydrator, it's important to use low temperatures that do not exceed 150°F (60°C). This is because higher temperatures may potentially destroy the active compounds found in mushrooms.
However, if your oven is not capable of reaching temperatures as low as 150°F (65°C), there is still a way to dry mushrooms using it. Simply set the oven to the lowest possible temperature and slightly open the door to allow for increased airflow and decreased temperature.
It's recommended to use an oven thermometer to ensure that the temperature inside the oven is accurate. By following these steps, you can effectively dry your mushrooms without damaging their beneficial properties.
3) Place Mushrooms On Baking Sheet
To properly prepare your mushrooms for baking, it is important to line your baking sheet with parchment paper. Next, arrange the mushrooms in a single layer with spaces between them to ensure even cooking.
It is essential to ensure that there is no excess water on the mushrooms before placing them on the baking sheet. Additionally, it is crucial to avoid having the mushrooms touch or overlap one another, as this can cause uneven cooking and potentially ruin the texture and flavor of the mushrooms. By following these simple steps, you can bake your mushrooms to perfection.
4) Drying The Mushrooms
Once you have properly arranged your mushrooms on a lined baking sheet, it is time to place them in the preheated oven for an hour. After an hour, remove the mushrooms from the oven and blot any visible moisture with a paper towel. Then, flip them over and return them to the oven for an additional hour.
While your mushrooms may be dry at this point, it is important to note that thicker mushrooms may require more time to dry. In fact, it can take up to 8 hours to achieve the desired level of dryness.
To test if your mushrooms are sufficiently dry, allow them to cool and attempt to break them. The mushrooms should be completely dry and easily snap apart, resembling a cracker-like texture. If the mushrooms are still leathery and bend, flip them over and return them to the oven for an additional 30 minutes. Continue checking and turning the mushrooms every 30 minutes until they become brittle and dry.
Naturally Air Drying Mushrooms
This particular method of drying mushrooms is not only cost-effective, but also doesn't require any special equipment or electricity. However, it does take a longer time to complete compared to other drying methods.
Additionally, air-dried mushrooms have the advantage of retaining their natural flavor better. Nevertheless, it is important to note that mushrooms dried naturally in the air may not reach the same level of dryness and longevity as those dried using a dehydrator or oven.
1) Wash Off The Mushrooms
To properly prepare mushrooms, it is important to begin by inspecting them for any signs of damage or bruising. Carefully remove any affected areas to ensure that the remaining parts are safe and fresh for consumption.
After trimming, it is recommended to rinse the mushrooms under cool running water to remove any dirt or debris. Once rinsed, gently pat them dry with a kitchen towel to remove excess water and prepare them for cooking or storage. Following these steps will help ensure that your mushrooms are clean and ready for use in your culinary endeavors.
2) Prep Mushrooms
There exist two distinct methods for air-drying mushrooms, and the method selected will determine the manner in which they are subsequently prepared.
3) Place In A Container
One effective way to air dry mushrooms is by utilizing a container that allows for air to circulate all around them. A mesh colander is a great example of such a container.
Additionally, a baking rack or mesh screen set on top of a baking sheet can be used as long as there is sufficient airflow both above and below the mushrooms. This method can be applied to whole mushrooms, mushroom caps, pieces, and sliced mushrooms.
It is important to note that the thinner the slices, the quicker the mushrooms will dry. For sliced mushrooms, it is recommended to slice them into 0.2 inch (0.5 cm) slices lengthways, ensuring that each slice includes a portion of the cap and stem.
Once the mushrooms are sliced, they should be arranged in the container in a single layer, ensuring that the pieces are not touching or overlapping. This will allow for proper airflow, allowing the mushrooms to dry evenly. With these simple steps, you can effectively air dry your mushrooms for use in various dishes.
4) Place Them On A String
The technique of stringing mushrooms for air drying has been a customary practice that has been passed down for many generations. This method proves to be advantageous for individuals who have space restrictions as it does not occupy any additional counter or tabletop space during the drying process.
When utilizing this approach, it is important to exercise caution in not cutting the mushrooms too small, as it can make it challenging to thread them. Using a sterilized needle, carefully thread the mushroom pieces onto a sturdy string or cooking twine, much like creating a popcorn garland or beaded necklace.
To sterilize the needle, one can easily use an alcohol lamp or candle flame. By following these instructions, one can successfully and efficiently dry their mushrooms while preserving their quality.
5) Air Dry The Mushrooms
To ensure the quality and safety of your dried mushrooms, it is important to take proper precautions during the drying process. After harvesting your mushrooms, you can either place them in a container or hang them from a string in a location that is well-ventilated. This will protect them from animals, birds, bugs, and moisture which can lead to spoilage.
The drying time for mushrooms can vary depending on the size of the pieces and the level of humidity. Typically, air-drying takes between 7 to 10 days. However, to speed up the process, you can place your mushrooms in direct sunlight or use a fan to increase the airflow.
Sun-drying your mushrooms not only shortens the drying time to under 5 days but also increases their vitamin D levels, which is an added benefit for your health. Remember, taking these steps will help you to safely preserve the mushrooms for future use.
Freeze Drying Mushrooms
When mushrooms are freeze-dried with care and stored properly, they can last for an impressive 20 years. This preservation technique involves using lower temperatures, which helps retain the mushrooms' flavor, texture, and nutrients.
It's important to note that the process of freeze-drying can be expensive, so it may be best reserved for those who plan on selling dried mushrooms or who want to freeze-dry other types of produce.
If you do choose to freeze-dry mushrooms, they will undergo two essential processes within a freeze dryer. First, the mushrooms must be pre-frozen to expedite the drying process. Then, the freeze dryer will lower the temperature to a range of -30 to -50°F (-34 to -45°C), and extract water from the frozen mushrooms using a vacuum. Follow the steps below to freeze-dry your mushrooms properly:
1) Wash And Slice Mushrooms
In order to prepare your mushrooms for dehydration, it is important to carefully clean and slice them. You can follow the instructions outlined in steps 1 and 2 of the dehydrator section above to ensure that your mushrooms are properly prepared. Once you have sliced them, it is important to pat them dry to remove any excess moisture.
2) Freeze Mushrooms Beforehand
While it is not strictly necessary, pre-freezing your sliced mushrooms before freeze-drying them can be a helpful step. Pre-freezing can reduce the overall drying time and can help to prevent contamination during the drying process.
To pre-freeze your mushrooms, you can arrange the slices on a tray that is compatible with your freezer. It is important to leave enough space between the slices so that they can freeze separately.
Once the mushrooms are frozen, you can transfer them directly to your freeze dryer trays for drying or store them in freezer bags until you are ready to begin the freeze-drying process.
If you have a large amount of mushrooms to freeze, it may be necessary to pre-freeze them in multiple rounds to ensure that they are all frozen adequately.
3) Time To Freeze Dry
After pre-freezing your sliced mushrooms, the next step is to load them onto the freeze dryer trays. The amount of time required for drying will depend on the size of the mushrooms and whether or not they have been pre-frozen.
Generally, pre-frozen, thinly sliced mushrooms will take around 24 hours to fully dry, while larger mushrooms or those that have not been pre-frozen may take up to 50 hours.
Once the drying process is complete, it is important to check that the mushrooms are fully dried. This can be done by breaking a mushroom slice and ensuring that it snaps without bending and that there is no visible ice in the center of the slice. If the mushrooms are not yet fully dried, they should be returned to the freeze dryer for an additional 2 to 3 hours.
Where To Store Your Dried Mushrooms
Proper storage is key when it comes to maintaining the quality of your dried mushrooms. It is best to store them in airtight containers or bags in a cool, dark, and dry place.
However, before storing your mushrooms for long-term use, there is an important final step that should be taken, regardless of the drying method used. This step is known as conditioning, and it involves testing the mushrooms for dryness a second time.
To condition dehydrated or oven-dried mushrooms, you should allow them to cool completely and then place them in a sealed mason jar or ziplock bag, removing as much air as possible. For air or freeze-dried mushrooms, this can be done immediately as they are already at room temperature.
The sealed container or bag should be placed in a cool, dark place and checked daily for any signs of condensation forming on the inside. If condensation is present, the mushrooms should be returned to the dehydrator or oven for additional drying.
With freeze-dried mushrooms, condensation is a sign that they were not completely freeze-dried or may have accumulated water when removed from the freeze dryer. If no condensation appears after a week, the mushrooms are considered well dried and can be packaged for long-term storage in well-labeled, airtight containers.
If you live in a humid area or plan to open the container often, it is recommended to add a packet of moisture-absorbing desiccant to the container.
What Kind of Mushrooms To Dry
Drying fresh mushrooms is essential for successful preservation, and while most mushroom species can be dried, some work better than others. It's important to use fresh mushrooms since older mushrooms may not hold up well during the drying process and may produce an unpleasant smell when subjected to heat.
To check for freshness, snap off the mushroom stem where it meets the cap; the stem should be firm and break instead of bending. This test may not work for shiitake mushrooms, but you can look for other signs such as sliminess, softness, or black or brown spots.
Some mushrooms are especially well-suited for drying due to their meaty texture and flavor, including shiitake, porcini, chanterelle, morel, and black trumpet.
Other types of mushrooms that are often dried include lion's mane, tremella, and hedgehog mushrooms, while medicinal mushrooms like chaga, reishi, and turkey tail are commonly used for medicinal mushroom powder, tinctures, and infusions. Dried shiitake mushrooms are especially popular due to their rich flavor.