11/04/2011 11:53 am ET Updated Aug 31, 2012

How To Sauté Mushrooms

Mushrooms are about 85 percent water, which can be a challenge when you want to saute them. Properly sautéed mushrooms should have some good caramelization or browning, but moist in the deep center, says chef Bruce Mattel of The Culinary Institute of America. The first rule, he says, is to have a very very hot pan. The second rule is to not overcrowd the pan, or the moisture the mushrooms release will basically stew them.

He uses a few tablespoons of vegetable oil (olive oil will also work, but don't use butter, since the milk solids will burn, he advises). He pours in the sliced mushrooms, then leaves them alone to cook for a few minutes. It's important not to agitate them too much, or they won't get a chance to caramelize. When you see some volume decrease, flip the pan (the meaning of sauté) or use a spatula or kitchen spoon to move the mushrooms around.

Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Chef Bruce Mattel from the Culinary Institute of America, and I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: how to sauté mushrooms.

Mushrooms are made up of quite a bit of water - they're about 85% water - and that presents some challenges when you want to sauté them. Properly sautéed mushrooms should have some really good caramelization and browning on the outside, yet still be moist in the deep center. So you have to follow a couple of basic rules.

The first rule is to have a really, really hot pan. I have a sauté pan here that I'm going to preheat. The second rule is not to overcrowd the mushrooms in the pan. As soon as those mushrooms hit the heat source, they're going to release steam and moisture, and if the pan is overcrowded, that moisture is going to get trapped in between them and encourage boiling or stewing, as opposed to sautéeing.

I'm going to take the pan, make sure it's getting hot by just waving my hand over the surface, and them I'm going to use an oil that has a fairly high smoking point, such as pure olive oil or vegetable oil. If I put pure butter in this pan, the milk solids would burn immediately. I'm going to add about a tablespoon, a tablespoon and a half of oil to the pan. I'm going to wait to see a ripple in the pan, and a slight bit of smoke.

Now I'm going to add the mushrooms and I'm not going to overcrowd the pan. You see, immediately the mushrooms began to sizzle. I'm going to raise the heat a little bit now, because I lowered the temperature of the pan when I added a cool product. One might be tempted at this point to mix these mushrooms right away, and think that they might be burning - but again, these mushrooms are 85% water. They're not going to burn. They'll basically just start to release their moisture. So I'm going to leave them like this, and if I am concerned or want to move them around, instead of turning them over I'm just going to swirl them a little bit in the pan to make sure they aren't sticking.

Once I see the volume of mushrooms start to decrease, and I see some translucency and obvious cooking, I'll start mixing them a little bit. I could do that by sautéeing - the French word meaning "to jump" - by just flipping them, like that! Notice, the mushrooms are starting to brown. Of course if you're not a good flipper, or sautéer, you can use a heatproof spatula or some type of kitchen spoon. But you don't want to keep mixing them. Again, this is all steam that's coming out, that you might be seeing. It is not smoke from burning mushrooms.

While those mushrooms are cooking, I want to point out that I have some other flavoring ingredients right here next to the mushrooms. I have a little bit of chopped garlic, I have some salt and pepper, and some whole butter. Although I don't want to start the cooking process with whole butter, because it could burn, it still is an excellent flavoring agent to finish the mushrooms with. Similarly, the garlic: garlic will burn at really high heat like what the mushrooms are experiencing there, so I"m going to wait until the end of the technique to add the butter and the garlic.

As you can see the mushrooms are getting nice and brown, and a lot less steam is coming out of the pan. They are pretty much cooked. So I'm going to reduce the heat on the pan significantly, down to low. I'm going to add approximately one teaspoon of chopped garlic, and I'm going to season with about a quarter teaspoon of salt, and about an eighth of a teaspoon of black pepper. As soon as you smell the garlic, it's probably cooked, because it was minced really really small. The last thing I'll do is add the butter, just let that butter melt down into the mushrooms and get absorbed, and this is really going to add some nice creamy flavor. Now it is fully melted; I'm going to shut down my heat and place the mushrooms in a bowl - and they're ready to serve. Here you have it: sauteed mushrooms. Use these in a variety of recipes, or just eat them out of the bowl.