The Reason Mushrooms Are Nearly Impossible To Overcook

Most foods don't take well to overcooking. Overcooked pasta turns out soft and mushy; steak that sits on the grill too long turns out tough and chewy; and if you forget anything in the oven, you can best believe it'll char and turn black. Mushrooms, however, happen to be the exception to this. 

According to Insider, mushrooms are different in that their cellular structure isn't as sensitive to heat. Whereas heat typically causes the breakdown of protein in meat and pectin in vegetables, mushrooms consist of neither component. Instead they contain something called chitin. Insider explains that chitin is a large molecular structure contained within the cell walls of a mushroom, and unlike other polymers present in foods, it can withstand higher amounts of heat. 

This doesn't mean that mushrooms take forever to cook, but rather that they're difficult to burn. If you're multitasking in the kitchen, or have a habit of burning things easily, using mushrooms as a main ingredient can certainly save you a lot of stress.

How long should you cook mushrooms?

Because mushrooms don't change much after they first come in contact with heat, it can be a challenge knowing when to actually take them off the stove. According to America's Test Kitchen (via Splendid Table), mushrooms only need five minutes of cooking in order to get tender. After that point, you can realistically remove them from the heat. 

If, however, you choose to continue cooking your mushrooms, or simply lose track of time, nothing much will happen. Aside from the initial five minutes of them becoming tender, it takes a whole 40 minutes for mushrooms to alter in texture. They will get 57% tougher; however, this is a very minute difference compared to beef tenderloin, which gets 293% tougher after 40 minutes of cooking. That amount of time may be a bit excessive, especially since it's a bad idea to leave your stove unattended in general, but at least you know it's nearly impossible to overcook mushrooms.