How to Clean Morels

Morel Mushrooms. Photo © Molly Watson

Fresh morel mushrooms are a tremendous treat. They are often hard-won, either through foraging the forest floor or spending a pretty penny, so don't ruin them with haphazard cleaning. Morels require special care, as outlined below.

What Type of Cleaning Do Morels Require?

Most mushrooms need just a simple brushing to clean them or, at most, a swipe with a damp paper towel. The sponge-like texture of morels, however, has a tendency to trap dirt and grit, so morels require a bit more attention.

This easy method for cleaning them keeps these delicate mushrooms from becoming water-logged.

Note: Clean morels only just before using. The morels will absorb a bit of water in the cleaning process, making them more susceptible to mold or rotting if stored afterward.

Deeper Cleaning for Morels

To clean morels thoroughly:

  1. Put the morels in a paper bag or a colander and shake vigorously, but not violently. The goal here is to knock out as much dirt or debris from the morels as possible before cleaning them, but you don't want the mushrooms to bruise or break apart.
  2. Lift the morels out of the bag or colander, leaving any loosened dirt or debris behind. (Do not pour the contents out, since that will simply dump the dirt back on the mushrooms.)
  3. Put the morels in a large bowl of cold water (or a clean sink full of cold water) and quickly swish the morels around in the water. The swishing is to help loosen any remaining dirt in the mushrooms, so if you can see dirt coming off, keep going until you don't.
  1. Lift the morels out of the water (again, leaving behind any dirt or grit on the bottom of the bowl or sink). If the water is particularly dirty, you may want to repeat the process, dumping out the dirty water and starting with a clean bowl of cool water.
  2. Once the morels are clean, put them on a clean kitchen towel or layers of paper towels. Quickly pat the mushrooms dry, jostling them around a bit as you do so any water in their holes has a chance to drain out.
  1. Prepare and cook the morels as you like. (Or, if you'd rather, string them up to dry to use them at a later date!)

We cannot emphasize this enough and it bears repeating: do not clean the morels until you're ready to use them! Until then keep them dirty as they are, in a paper bag to let them breathe and keep them happily a teeny bit moist without being at all damp.