HERE’S HOW is a series where we share the best useful tips from our cooking adventures. We’ll answer questions before you have them and illuminate food mysteries with a blend of science and legend. Today, we’re talking about mushrooms, everyone’s favorite fungus.

We love to throw mushrooms into our dishes. Whether shiitake, cremini, oyster, or just plain white mushrooms, mushrooms turn super savory when sautéed. They add needed umami to round out dishes, especially vegetarian mains like our Fettucelle with Wild Mushroom Bolognese or Mushroom & Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie.

There’s an important tip to know when preparing any kind of mushroom for cooking. Ready? You want to clean each mushroom by wiping it with a damp towel instead of running it under water–as you’d do with any other vegetable.

Because mushrooms’ texture is spongelike, they can easily absorb water when you wash them. This becomes a problem. A watery mushroom simply just won’t sear as well in a hot pan and can even turn sort of soggy in the finished dish. There goes the umami and the melt-in-your mouth texture. Don’t risk it. We have a better method for cleaning. (Since mushrooms do grow in the soil, you might find remnants of dirt caked on their surfaces, so you don’t want to skip the cleaning step altogether.)

Run a paper towel or clean dish towel under cold water. Squeeze out the excess liquid, then wipe off the surface and stem of each ‘shroom. If the towel starts to look dirty, simply run it under the water again, squeeze it out, and repeat.

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