Foraging for morel mushrooms is an exciting past time. When you eventually find them, the feeling can be ecstatic. But cooking these unique mushrooms is just as rewarding as finding them. How to cook morel mushrooms can vary from person to person. But, there is a common way to cook them, which we’ll share with you in this article.
Cooking morel mushrooms is similar to other types of mushroom. The cooking process is also very quick and doesn’t require much time or even effort.
The Process of How to Cook Morel Mushrooms
As mentioned already, cooking with morel mushrooms can be just as exciting and fun as foraging for them. Unless, of course, you’re a mushroom hunter at heart. But, finding morels in the wild can be quite challenging.
Because they’re a seasonal mushroom, they only grow in the springtime. Which specific months will depend on where you’re located around the globe. This makes morels quite difficult to cultivate or grow at home and is also why they are very expensive to buy.
The cooking stage is actually the easiest part when it comes to dealing with morels. Although cooking morels is very simple, there are a few stages that you need to go through before cooking them.
If your mushroom hunting was successful and you were lucky enough to find a bunch of good-looking morels, then you’re half-way there. Keep in mind that the bigger they are doesn’t necessarily mean they are better. Sometimes, it is the smaller morels that are better, as they contain less dirt and are less soggy.
The next stage is cleaning morel mushrooms. Fortunately, purchased morels don’t need any cleaning, so just give them a rinse.
However, morels found in the wild will need a thorough clean, to get rid of all the dirt and possible bugs living inside them. Because morels are naturally hollow inside, and their caps contain small compartments, they are ideal shelters to live in for bugs such as worms and insects.
Be sure to clean every nook and cranny of your wild morel mushroom.
After you have cleaned all of your morels, prepare to cut the mushrooms for the cooking phase. Because morels can be quite big, the most common way to cut them is length ways.
Or cut them however way you prefer. Just make sure each mushroom is cut small enough to fit in your skillet and cook evenly.
5 Tips for the Cooking Phase
Now that you have cleaned your morel mushrooms, it’s time to get down to the fun part. What makes the cooking phase extremely exciting is that you can try a lot of recipes with morel mushrooms.
Morel mushroom recipes are especially great to work with if it’s your first time cooking with these mushrooms. The instructions included in the recipes will help you to become eventual masters of cooking this beautiful delicacy.
Tip #1: Cook slowly and don’t waste any part
The special thing about morels is their very strong taste. They have a very noticeable flavor that keeps people coming back for more. The best way to describe its taste is nutty, earthy, and even a little meaty.
You could say that this is one of the ideal alternative foods to have for recent vegetarian converts who still have a taste for meat. This is also why morels go really well with soup recipes.
To start cooking morel mushrooms, put them on a low heat and allow them to cook slowly, adjusting the heat of your stove if needed. Cooking morels shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes, giving them a few minutes on each side. As you let them settle, keep an eye out for that perfect golden brown color, especially around the edges.
You will notice each piece of mushroom shrink, a process which is quite normal. As the morels shrink, the pan may start to fill up with water or brown-colored juices. If you have another batch of morels to cook, drain the juice before adding the next lot. Otherwise, your mushrooms will become too mushy or sloppy as the water content increases in the pan.
When draining the juice, keep it in a separate bowl if you plan to cook soups later on. This is because the juice still contains the morels’ precious flavors and can be just as tasteful in other recipes.
Another thing that you shouldn’t waste is the mushroom stems. When you’re at the cutting stage, do cut off the end of the stems as these are usually the toughest and dirtiest part of the mushroom that sits underground.
But once you’ve cut the ends off, don’t throw them away as they’re still edible. Instead, store or set them aside to use as stock for recipes such as casseroles or stews. Morels are rare delicacies, so you definitely want to make every part count.
Tip #2: Just use simple ingredients
The best way to cook morel mushrooms is to use simple or plain ingredients. The majority of people cook morels using butter instead of oil. This is mostly because butter tends to bring out more of the mushroom’s flavor. But, oil can still work just as good and is preferred by many people.
The main reason why people only use butter or oil to cook morels is that these mushrooms already have a strong and very delicious taste on their own. In fact, this is what makes this type of mushroom so highly sought after.
If you’re a true mushroom lover and you’ve already tried morels, then you probably have this as one of your top three favorite edible mushrooms.
Besides using butter or oil, you can add other light ingredients such as salt and pepper. Some apply the salt and pepper while it’s cooking on the skillet, while others add them after the cooking has been done.
Tip #3: Avoid using a lot of seasoning or ingredients
For those who are a little bit more experienced with cooking morels, they sometimes add sliced onions and bits of garlic to boost the taste. However, you don’t want to add anything that will take away the main flavor of the meal, which are the morels themselves.
This principle should also be applied to recipes. You should make sure that other seasonings or ingredients don’t overpower the unique flavors of your morel mushrooms.
Great and strong tasting foods like morels are the kind of foods that should be cooked in a way where you truly savor them. In the end, you are the chef. So, create the dish that will satisfy your taste buds, whether it’s adding a splash of wine or sprinkling a dash of cream.
Tip #4: Don’t eat raw morels
There are literally tens of thousands of different mushroom species scattered throughout different parts of the world. Furthermore, the majority of mushrooms are not edible because they’re just too poisonous to eat. Fortunately, the morel mushroom doesn’t fall into that category.
Although morels contain a toxin called hydrazine, they won’t affect you if they’re thoroughly cooked. But, if you eat them raw, you will become ill. That’s why you shouldn’t eat raw morels and instead cook them properly.
In addition, our digestive system is not fully designed to break down raw mushrooms. So, never assume that you can eat mushrooms raw regardless of their amazing health benefits.
Tip #5: Choose fresh morels
Morels are so delicious that even people who don’t really like mushrooms enjoy them. When you’re looking for morels, choose or cook the freshest ones. The fresher they are, the more delicate their texture will be. They also cook much quicker and will produce a more exotic flavor.
One thing to note is that fresh morels are much more delicate, so be extra careful when handling them. If you’re collecting them from the wild, don’t stack them on top of each other, but instead spread them out and give them space. This will also prevent or isolate all your mushrooms from bugs or worms.
How to Re-hydrate Dried Morel Mushrooms
Preparing dried morel mushrooms is just as popular as their fresh counterpart. Fresh morels taste great, but so do dried ones. The unique thing about dried morels is that they’re available all year round because they’re prepared to last. They’re also very easy to preserve and don’t need to be refrigerated. The downside is that they are more expensive because they’re readily available.
The thing that you need to do with dried morels that you don’t do with fresh ones is re-hydrate them before preparing to cook. How to prepare dried morel mushrooms for cooking is very simple and easy. This process also doubles as a way to clean them.
Step #1: Put all mushrooms in a bowl of lukewarm water
Make sure that the bowl is large enough to accommodate all of them. Some recipes even tell you to cover them with wine or chicken stock.
Whatever liquid you choose, let the mushrooms sit in the bowl for around 15 minutes. This will give them enough time to soak up the liquid and puff up to look like fresh morels.
Make sure to check on them now and then to see if they’re pliable enough. The time to let them sit will vary depending on how big the morels are and how many you have in the bowl.
An important fact to keep in mind is that dried morels will reconstitute, or grow 6-8 times their weight. This means when you choose a bowl, remember that your mushrooms will get much bigger. So, choose a bowl that will not only fit all your dried morels but will also accommodate them once they’ve expanded to their full and natural size.
Step #2: Stir the mushrooms every 5 minutes
Because this re-hydrating process is mostly to clean your morels, a great piece of advice is to stir the mushrooms every 5 minutes. Rather than letting them sit for the whole 15-minute duration, spend some time stirring them around every so often.
This will remove any additional dirt or debris from the mushrooms. This is also a good technique to avoid your morels from absorbing too much water and getting too soggy.
Step #3: Drain the mushrooms
Once all your morel mushrooms have become soft enough, they’re ready to be drained. When picking them out of the bowl, be gentle to avoid breaking them.
How you drain the mushrooms is by placing them in a strainer or colander. You can then place each piece on a paper towel for extra drying while you drain the rest of the pieces.
Don’t throw away the bowl of liquid after you’ve drained all your morels. You can use this as a sauce for stock or even certain soup recipes. If you do see a lot of dirt in the bowl, use a filter or sieve to get rid of the solids and only keep the flavorsome liquid.
When all these are done, the final step is to grab your morel recipe book from the bookshelf and get started on cooking your favorite mushroom dish.
Morel mushrooms are so well prized that scientists are still trying to figure out how to cultivate them all year round instead of using preservation methods. Many professional chefs actively source morels to use in exclusive meals.
This is especially the case with dried morels as they can be used any time of year. Even tourists and visitors travel during the spring season just to feast on this special treat.
This article on how to cook morel mushrooms will certainly help you gain the confidence to start cooking with morels. You are now equipped with all the basic knowledge about the wonderful and great tasting morel mushroom.
You can also learn the effective methods of finding and frying morel mushrooms here: How to Fry Morel Mushrooms