Why It's So Hard To Overcook Mushrooms

It's easy to overcook most ingredients like meats, vegetables and even pasta. Mushrooms, however, are so resilient even novice cooks can master them with ease. Here's why they're the most forgiving ingredient in the kitchen.

In this video from the America's Test Kitchen YouTube channel, chef Dan Souza shows why mushrooms are one of the easiest ingredients to work with in the kitchen. Using a machine called a CT3 Texture Analyser, they measured the toughness of steak, zucchini and portobello mushrooms while being steamed.

Over the course of 40 minutes, the steak got 293 per cent tougher, the zucchini became mushy, but the portobello only increased in firmness 57 per cent (and remained flavorful to testers). So why is overcooking mushrooms so difficult? It has to do with their cell walls that are made of a polymer called chitin. Neither the protein found in meat or pectin found in vegetables is heat-stable, but chitin is.

No matter how you prepare your mushrooms — a quick sauté or a long roast — you're almost guaranteed to end up with a great tasting, perfectly tender ingredient.

Science: Why You Literally Can't Overcook Mushrooms [YouTube]


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