There are many reasons why you might want to freeze certain dishes or ingredients in today’s fast-paced world.
For one thing, many of us are meal-preppers, and preparing meals ahead of time often means storing them in the freezer for maximum preservation.
Another reason for freezing produce is that fresh produce often goes off in the refrigerator before it can all be used up, which is a waste of food and money.
Freezing ingredients rather than refrigerating them is an easy solution to this problem.
Unfortunately, though, not all foods are suitable for freezing, so before you transfer any item from your pantry or fridge into a freezer bag, you’ll need to find out whether it’s worth it or even safe to do so.
One food item with a relatively short shelf life is the mushroom (see also our article on chicken of the woods).
While mushrooms are nutritious and versatile, they’re also notorious for going out of date quickly, which is why many people find themselves asking ‘can you freeze mushrooms?’
We’ll be answering this question in as much depth as possible over the course of today’s article, so read on to find out everything you should know about freezing mushrooms!
Can You Freeze Mushrooms?
The main reason you clicked on this article was probably to find out whether mushrooms, in general, can be frozen.
If you have some mushrooms that you’d like to freeze to extend their shelf life, the good news is that you can indeed freeze mushrooms!
However, there are a few caveats to this answer because not all mushrooms respond in the same way to freezing temperatures, which means that different mushrooms will need to be prepared differently before going into the freezer.
Keep reading for more information on how and when to prepare mushrooms for freezing.
Inspecting Mushrooms Before Freezing
The first thing you should do before freezing any variety of mushroom is inspect the produce to make sure it’s in good condition and still safe to eat.
As we mentioned earlier, mushrooms go off relatively quickly compared to some other vegetables, and when they do go off, they take on a fishy odor and a slimy texture.
This is enough to put anyone off their food – and rightly so, because eating old mushrooms can actually make you very ill and even, in rare cases, lead to a condition called botulism.
Botulism can cause symptoms such as paralysis, trouble breathing, and vomiting, and it can be fatal.
So, before you freeze mushrooms, the first thing you should do is check the use-by date on the packaging. If they haven’t passed their use-by date and look and smell fine, you can be sure they’re safe to freeze.
You may still be able to freeze the mushrooms past this date as long as all of the following are true:
- The mushrooms have not been in your refrigerator for longer than 2 weeks
- They smell normal (earthy and fresh) and don’t have any fishy, moldy, or musty smell to them
- When you touch the mushrooms, they don’t feel slimy
If you answer no to any of the above, then unfortunately, you should throw the mushrooms out to be on the safe side.
Which Mushrooms Can Be Frozen Raw?
Some mushrooms can be frozen in their raw form. The varieties of mushrooms that you can freeze straight out of the packaging without cooking include:
- Hen of the woods
However, most other mushrooms should be cooked before freezing. This isn’t for safety purposes so much as for taste and texture.
Cooking Mushrooms For Freezing
If you’re freezing mushroom varieties other than kaitakes, creminis, portobellos, or hen of the woods, you should cook them first to ensure they retain their flavor and texture when you thaw them.
Depending on how long you want your mushrooms to keep for and what meals you intend to make with them, you will want to use one of three different cooking methods: blanching, sauteing, or steaming.
Method 1: Blanching
Blanching your mushrooms before freezing is best if you’re going to be using the mushrooms for stews or soups where the texture of the mushrooms doesn’t really matter.
This is because blanching tends to make mushrooms a little soggy, but on the plus side, once you’ve blanched them, you can keep them in your freezer for up to 12 months!
First, you should rinse your mushrooms using cold water and leave them to air dry. If you’re in a hurry, you can speed up the drying process by patting them with a paper towel.
If the mushrooms are on the larger side, you might want to cut them in half or even quarter them.
This will speed up the cooking process and make them easier to store, but make sure every slice of mushroom is at least half an inch in size and that all the slices are even so that they cook evenly.
The next step is to boil a large pan of water, and for each quart of water you add to the pan, use a teaspoon of lemon juice. This will stop the mushrooms from getting too dark during the cooking process.
One good thing about blanching mushrooms is that it’s a fast process. You won’t need to blanch the mushrooms for longer than 2 minutes.
In fact, letting them cook in this way for too long will make them overly soggy, which is why you should then transfer the cooked mushrooms to a bowl of cool water to make sure they stop cooking immediately after the 2 minutes.
When the mushrooms have reached room temperature, lay them out on a cookie sheet, spacing them out evenly so they don’t touch. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer and wait for 4 hours.
This is called flash freezing and it will help to stop the mushrooms from sticking when you freeze them long-term.
Finally, transfer your mushrooms to a freezer-friendly container. Make sure to do this immediately so the mushrooms don’t thaw!
We recommend using a vacuum-sealed container because the water content of the average mushroom means they are susceptible to freezer burn, which may impact their taste and texture.
If you’re using a jar or a tub, leave an inch of space at the top since the mushrooms will expand when frozen.
If you’re going to use freezer bags, make sure your mushroom layer is no thicker than ½ an inch and that you squeeze all the air out before putting the bag in the freezer.
Method 2: Steaming
Steaming your mushrooms prior to freezing them is the best cooking method if you want to keep your mushrooms firm. This will make it easier to use them in recipes like risotto where you want nice, firm pieces of mushroom.
Before you get cooking, prepare the mushrooms in the same way we described for the blanching method, by rinsing, drying, and slicing them.
Next, prepare a pint of water with a teaspoon of lemon juice and soak the mushrooms for about 5 minutes to prevent excessive darkening.
Transfer your mushrooms to a strainer over a pot of simmering water.
For whole mushrooms, you’ll need to steam for 5 minutes, whereas for button mushrooms (and quartered mushrooms) the steam time is about 3.5 minutes. Sliced mushrooms should be ready in 3 minutes.
After your mushrooms are steamed to perfection, follow the cooling and flash freezing process outlined above before transferring them to your choice of container following the instructions from earlier.
Method 3: Sauteing
Another way to cook your mushrooms in order to ensure firmness rather than sogginess is sauteing.
Just like the above 2 methods, you should first wash, dry, and cut your mushrooms to the appropriate size. You’ll also want to soak them in the water and lemon juice mixture described above before sauteing them as well.
To saute your mushrooms, heat up a pan containing oil or butter. Keep the heat between low and medium at first before eventually going up to a high temperature.
Once the heat is on high, add your mushrooms to the pan. Keep stirring for about 5 minutes or until all the liquid in the pan has evaporated.
At this point, your mushrooms are ready for cooling and flash freezing. After the 4-hour flash freezing period, you can go ahead and transfer the mushrooms to your desired freezer container.
When Not To Freeze Mushrooms
We’ve covered 3 different ways to cook mushrooms for freezing, so you have plenty of options! However, there are certain times when you should not freeze mushrooms.
Of course, as we mentioned earlier, you should never freeze mushrooms that have gone off. Freezing out of date mushrooms won’t make them safer to eat. You should also never refreeze thawed mushrooms.
Another thing to bear in mind is that if you have cooked mushrooms in a dairy-based sauce, you should not freeze any leftovers. This is because dairy products can’t be stored in the freezer once cooked.
If you want to meal-prep mushroom dishes featuring dairy products (like mushroom stroganoff for example), you should freeze the dish before adding the dairy.
You can absolutely freeze mushrooms as long as they are in-date and have not been cooked in dairy products like milk or cream.
Some mushrooms can be frozen raw, but most will require cooking for taste and texture purposes.
If you’ll be using your mushrooms for soup or stew, you can blanch them before freezing because it won’t matter if they go soggy.
However, if you want firm mushrooms, you should either steam or saute them.
Make sure to use any thawed mushrooms straight away since they can’t be refrozen after thawing.
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