Dried Mushrooms 101
Dried mushrooms can be found in every good mushroom-enthusiast and culinary mastermind’s kitchen. Real fanatics pull out jars from deep in their pantry that say something like “Morels, Shasta 2018” and proudly share their tales of epic morel seasons past.
Dried mushrooms are often prized and kept for special occasions like birthdays, holidays, and other celebrations. It may be one of your best options to eat wild mushrooms once the season is over.
After all, dried mushrooms are not only practical, but they also maintain or even enhance the flavors of mushrooms. Seriously. Dried and aged Porcini (Boletus edulis) for example have a more intensely delicious flavor than fresh.
How do dried mushrooms work?
Dried mushrooms are shelf-stable and can last pretty much indefinitely with proper storage. They can be rehydrated and used very similarly to fresh mushrooms.
To use dried mushrooms:
1) Dehydrate them in hot water for about one hour
2) Strain them from the broth and keep the delicious mushroom-infused water!
3) Cook them like fresh mushrooms! The broth can be used to make a gravy like sauce, rice, or the base for a soup!
What you should know is that not all mushrooms are good dehydrated. Many stay tough and chewy no matter how much you try to rehydrate them. This is good to consider because some distributors sell these mushrooms anyways. Check the table below to see which mushrooms should only be eaten fresh.
Wild or Cultivated
Dried, Fresh, Or Both
Craterellus fallax, C. cornicopoides
Porcini or Bolete
Tricholoma magnivelar, T. murrillianum
Chicken Of The Woods
Quality of dried mushrooms
Dried mushrooms can vary vastly in quality. Often dried mushrooms are the lower quality mushrooms that couldn’t make it to market-fresh. Since they are easy to transport, many dried mushrooms are imported from around the world. This is important to consider when purchasing dried mushrooms for food or medicine – particularly because mushrooms grown in contaminated environments or substrates can bioaccumulate toxins.
Dried Cultivated Mushrooms
Dried mushrooms can come from anywhere. Many come from China or parts of Asia where there are large-scale mushroom growing operations. Their advanced infrastructure allows them to produce at a cheaper cost. While these producers often get criticism for selling contaminated products, this may not always be the case. There are international producers of high-quality products.
Regardless, we always recommend buying from smaller and local producers. This not only guarantees a lower footprint but also a higher quality product.
Dried Wild Mushrooms
When wild mushrooms are purchased by distributors, they are ranked by quality. Old and mature mushrooms (sometimes with larvae) are bought for cheaper, while prime specimens pay the big bucks.
Most often, lower-quality mushrooms are used for drying while high-quality specimens make it out to market-fresh. Certain mushrooms, like boletes, may even get dried with a bit of extra insect protein. It’s practically unavoidable in older specimens.
If you want to ensure you’re getting what you pay for, buy from providers that rank their dried wild mushrooms. Class “A” or “1” mushrooms are considered the highest quality, with “B” or “2” following and so on. Even the lower-quality classes can offer great ingredients, but may not be as presentable.
How to dehydrate mushrooms
If you want to dry mushrooms yourself, there are several different ways to go about it! For large fleshy mushrooms, you will want to slice them into smaller pieces for dehydration.
- Food Dehydrator: This is the best option if you have one handy. They are usually only $50-100 and worth it if you want to dehydrate mushrooms throughout the season. Always set them at the lowest temperature if possible!
- Sun or Air Dried: Just place them on a piece of clean cardboard or metal rack in the sun if the climate permits. Otherwise, you can also string them on a line and hang them somewhere dry.
- DIY Dehydrators: There are many models for homemade dehydrators. Some are as easy as a lightbulb in a wooden box. Others may use fans to promote the air flow.