Portobello, Portabella…that is the question.
What’s the difference? Nothing really. Just the spelling. One is the male reference and the other female. Usually when someone uses either name they are referring to the same large brown cremini mushroom. The only difference is the spelling.
When you first see Portobello mushrooms, they can be pretty intimidating to cook with. They are large, thick, and meaty. In fact, they are the largest of the cultivated mushrooms. They can measure as large as 6 inches in diameter. They have visible black gills on the underside. In this kitchen tips series, you will learn how to pick out the perfect mushroom, gill the Portobello, cut it, and store it.
Choose a firm, plump mushroom with a pleasant smell. They should not be shriveled or slippery, which is a sign of decay. You can eat them raw or cooked. Cooking the mushroom intensifies the flavor. You can grill, roast, sauté, and braise your mushrooms. Because of their diameter, many grill the mushroom and eat it like a meaty hamburger sandwiched between bread.
Before using your mushrooms, lightly wipe off the dirt from the mushroom or gently rinse them under a trickle of cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Do not soak them or put them under water for too long because they are extremely porous and soak up liquid quickly; making for a watery product when cooked.
To remove the stem, lay your portobello mushrooms flat on their back and gently bend and pull up the stems. The stems will easily detach. Discard the stems. The stems are edible, but more woody than soft. You decide if you want to include them. I discard them. You can also use a small paring knife to cut off the stems at the base.
The dark gills of Portobellos can be eaten, but when you cook them, they discolor anything you cook them with making for a black murky color. The gills have a strong, musty flavor that some find unpalatable. It’s truly your preference but I prefer to remove the gills.
Removing the gills is really quite easy. With the mushroom cradled in one hand and using a spoon in the other, gently scrape and scoop out the gills on the underside working in the round. They should come out easily so there is no need to apply a lot of pressure otherwise you risk breaking the mushroom or punching right through it. Discard the gills.
While the mushroom is still on its back, slice the mushroom in strips into desired size.
Turn the mushrooms clockwise and slice in the other direction cubing the mushroom.
If you choose not to remove the gills, you can turn your mushroom right side up and slice in that direction as well.
Store your mushroom in either a paper bag or wrapped in paper towels. Do not store in plastic. The plastic creates too much moisture allowing your mushrooms to rot quickly. You can also freeze cooked mushrooms. They keep well up to a month. Uncooked mushrooms do not freeze well.