How To Get The Best Sauteed Mushrooms, According To Julia Child

Wild, button, shiitake, seafood, portobello, cremini, doesn't matter. Tout va. We love mushrooms –- and so did French food industry icon Julia Child. As part of her tips as a cookbook author and television cooking personality, Child let us in on a technique for saving soggy mushrooms. Even beginner home cooks know what a difference sautéing can make with fresh veggies in a dish. But it can be tough to achieve that crisped brown edge on the mushrooms in your pan — more often, they turn out wet. 

It seems like everybody has a secret trick for the perfect sauté. Fine Cooking recommends turning up the heat; Sautéing only works if water evaporates the instant it is released from a vegetable. For quick evaporation, it says to get the pan hot before you even add the mushrooms, so they sizzle as they hit the bottom. Inspired Taste suggests using two pans instead of one to give those mushrooms enough space to caramelize and brown. 

But, these aren't Child's secret. So, what is it? Whether you're making a classic mushroom stroganoff or are trying out a modern plant-based meat alternative mushroom burger, the chef has a method for getting the best sautéed mushrooms every time.

Julia Child wants you to spread 'em out

For a perfect sauté, Julia Child recommends spreading the mushrooms out in the pan. Mushrooms have a pretty high natural water content, which is released during cooking, via Food 52. Crowded, wet mushrooms will steam rather than sauté in the pan. So, to crisp them up, keep your mushrooms far apart as they brown and make sure to select a large enough pan to give them the space they need. You can find Child's recipe in her cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I," page 513, or in her other work "The French Chef," page 151, per American History.

To dodge even more wetness, opt for a dirtier mushroom. Washing your mushrooms might be the culprit for some of that water content. Sunday Supper Movement advises against running your mushrooms under water or soaking them to clean. Mushrooms are highly absorbent, and they'll soak up any additional water you introduce, thereby making their water content even higher. Instead, it says, gently polish the surface of your mushrooms with a wet paper towel. This will remove any dirt without adding extra moisture.