To Make Better Mushrooms, Squish Them

I could eat mushrooms every day. And when I plan my grocery shopping just right, I do. This affection is, at times, controversial; many people hate mushrooms, eagerly attributing their distaste to the fungus’s taste and texture. I’d argue it’s almost always a case of misplaced blame: Why beef with the mushroom when it was the cooking method that did you dirty

Sure, if you don’t cook enough water out of mushrooms, you will get something that’s a little waterlogged (after all, mushrooms are between 85–95% water)—but when I make mushrooms, they’re dense (what some might call “meaty”) but with some textural variation. The firm mushroom flesh is paired with golden brown crust and frizzled crispy edges. And the way to my ideal ’shrooms is simple: Squish them! I learned this technique from the Sarno brothers, the mushroom savants behind Wicked Healthy, who use it to turn big chunks of mushrooms into beautifully charred steaks that can be seasoned and sauced in any number of ways. My mostly meat-free life has been better ever since.

To do it you’ll need mushrooms—I generally go for oyster mushrooms, maitakes, or lion’s mane, since these come in large chunks with frilly edges and nooks and crannies that’ll cook into fun to eat textures—and two pans that nestle inside each other and are ideally cast iron, which are heavy and retain heat well. I generally use one 10″ and one 12″ pan.

To start, heat up the larger pan and add just enough neutral oil to coat the surface. When it’s hot, add the mushrooms either as one big chunk or torn into a few smaller pieces. As soon as you hear the mushrooms start to sizzle and sear, put the second pan on top (I sometimes add a protective layer of foil on the bottom of the smaller pan) and let the weight of the cast iron do the work.

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