No—You don't have to use all of the oil in your house to get the job done. 
Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

If you’re a mushroom fan, you know this to be true: There isn’t much better than a pan of crispy, golden brown ‘shrooms. Season them with herbs, flavor them with garlic, serve ‘em on a bed of pasta or veggies—no matter how you prepare them, they’re satisfying and delicious.

The only catch: It’s easy to lose track of how much oil or butter you’re adding as they sizzle away in the skillet. Mushrooms are like sponges: They absorb moisture quickly, and in the case of a sauté, that means fat. What started out as an innocent side can quickly become a calorie and fat bomb. But your mushrooms can stay svelte and crispy with these three tips.

1. Start with completely dry mushrooms

The number one, most important rule for crispy, not squishy mushrooms is that they should not steam as they cook. Steaming occurs when heat is applied in the presence of liquid (most often water or culinary stock.) For our purposes, this means creating an environment in which there is as little moisture as possible. If you give your morels, shiitakes, or portobellos a quick rinse under water before preparing them, be sure to pat them completely dry before cooking. Better yet, skip the rinse and just wipe any dirt with a damp paper towel.  

2. Don’t crowd the pan

You’ll want to start you burner over medium high, and get the pan plenty hot before adding oil. Putting too many mushrooms in the pan at once means one thing: The heat on the surface of the skillet will drop rapidly. High heat is a must for that golden brown “crust,” so if the temperature of the pan drops, the mushrooms will cook slower. Slower-cooked mushrooms means soft, limp, and squishy mushrooms. They will be fully cooked and edible. But crispy and delicious? Not so much.  

3. Salt after they’ve finished cooking

We’re taught that we should season early and often when we cook, but in the case of mushrooms, you don’t want to add salt until they’ve finished. Salt draws out the moisture in ingredients, so if you season those ‘shrooms when they hit the pan, they’ll “weep” out moisture, which will cause them to steam, not sear. This brings us back to the first rule—create a dry cooking environment. In fact, you should hold off on seasoning with fresh herbs until the end of the cooking process, as well—the extra-hot temperature will cause them to burn and become bitter tasting. Add salt and any other seasonings as soon as you take them off the heat, and enjoy!