Hen of the woods mushrooms are intensely flavorful, and their texture is delectable enough to win over even those who don’t normally eat mushrooms. So, what can you do to really bring out the best in these mushrooms? In this article, we’ll talk about how to cook hen of the woods mushrooms, as well as discuss their unique flavor and texture.
What You'll Learn Today
What Does Hen of the Woods Mushroom Taste Like?
Hen of the woods is a unique mushroom not to be confused with chicken of the woods. While many people agree that chicken of the woods has a chicken-like flavor and texture, hen of the woods are generally described as having a more peppery, earthy flavor.
The texture of hen of the woods is what makes this mushroom so unique. Even people who generally don’t like mushrooms may like hen of the woods because the texture is different from other mushrooms.
This mushroom has been described as having a delicate, feathery texture–much lighter and less rubbery than other types of mushrooms. The rich flavor of hen of the woods pairs with its unique texture to make these mushrooms a hit with both mushroom lovers and skeptics.
What’s more, these mushrooms are a treat that can be found throughout much of the year, not just for a short season. You can forage for them yourself or find them at farmers markets and specialty grocers from late summer through early winter.
You can even grow hen of the woods yourself, though doing so might take a little time and practice.
To learn more about hen of the woods mushrooms, check out the following video.
How to Clean Hen of the Woods Mushroom
The best way to clean hen of the woods is to give them a quick rinse. You don’t want to soak these delicate mushrooms in water, as they will absorb too much of the moisture.
What’s more, soaking them may be overkill in terms of the amount of cleaning they actually need. These mushrooms grow on trees, so they won’t be down with the other plant debris of the forest floor and are much less likely than ground-growing mushrooms to be covered with dirt.
You do, however, want to make sure these mushrooms are free of bugs and bits of bark. They grow in a large cluster from a central stem, and their many crevices make perfect hiding places for bugs and any bits of organic matter that get washed into them.
So, before washing your mushrooms, start by cleaning them with a mushroom brush or a clean toothbrush. You may have to break them into sections or segments to get the best clean.
Once brushed, place your mushrooms in a colander and use the kitchen sink sprayer to rinse them off. Shake the colander to move the mushrooms around, but be careful not to bruise them.
Should You Soak Hen of the Woods Mushrooms?
Again, soaking allows them to absorb too much water.
Hen of the woods are light, airy mushrooms that absorb water even more easily than other mushroom types. If they absorb too much, they will become soggy during the cooking process, which will give them a more slimy texture.
If your mushrooms are especially dirty and you find that you absolutely must soak them, only do so briefly. Dunk them in a bowl or sink of water, swish them around once or twice, and remove them.
Place washed mushrooms on towels and allow them to drain and air-dry for at least an hour.
How Do You Prepare Hen of the Woods to Eat?
Hen of the woods mushrooms are best served cooked, as the cooking process brings out their flavor and improves their texture. The preferred cooking methods for hen of the woods are sauteing and roasting.
We’ll discuss each method below.
Sauteing Hen of the Woods
Sauteing these mushrooms gives them a delicious taste and texture, and it doesn’t take very long to do. Sauteing them allows you to add lots of additional flavors to offset the strong peppery taste of these mushrooms.
To saute hen of the woods:
- Pull apart these mushrooms into 3-inch chunks. There is no need to slice them with a knife, as they are very soft and delicate. You can also use the bottom stem that holds them together – it has a very unique flavor.
- Warm up your pan over medium-high heat, adding the oil of your choice. Olive oil works well for this, as does sesame oil if you want to give them more of an oriental flavor.
- When the oil is hot, add the mushrooms, stirring briefly to coat them in the oil.
- Allow the mushrooms to cook, uncovered, for two minutes. Flip them over and cook them on the other side for one minute.
- Add salt and any other seasonings of your choice. Hen of the woods mushrooms pair well with many different savory seasonings, including garlic and onion powder, soy sauce, sriracha sauce, oregano, and thyme.
- Allow the mushrooms to cook one more minute after adding your flavorings, then remove them from the heat.
- Serve immediately as a standalone side dish, or pair your cooked mushrooms with other recipes such as pasta or pizza.
Roasting Hen of the Woods
Roasting these mushrooms not only brings out the peppery, savory flavor; it also enhances the texture. When roasted, these mushrooms become soft on the inside with a nice, crispy crust on the outside–mushroom lovers and even some haters often find them irresistible when cooked this way.
To roast hen of the woods:
- Start by preheating your oven to 425 degrees–this is hot enough to cook the mushrooms relatively quickly and thoroughly while crisping up the outsides.
- These mushrooms are tender enough that you can just pull them apart–no need to slice them with a knife. Simply break them carefully into 3-inch pieces, and throw away the base of the stem (the tough part that holds the rest of the mushroom together).
- In a bowl, mix the mushrooms together with olive oil, salt, and any other seasonings of your choice. Mix them carefully with your hands to keep from breaking them into smaller pieces or bruising them.
- As noted above, you can use a variety of seasonings; keep it simple by adding garlic and onion powder or even just salt, or get more exotic by adding other flavors. Some good seasoning choices for hen of the woods include oregano, thyme, soy sauce, and sriracha.
- Spread your oiled and seasoned mushrooms evenly on a baking sheet and bake them for 20 minutes. The edges should be crispy and lightly browned.
- Serve immediately as a standalone side dish, or add them to pasta, pizza, or other recipes.
Hen of the woods mushrooms are flavorful, savory mushrooms that taste best when sauteed or roasted. You can add a variety of seasonings to enhance or balance their peppery flavor, eat them on their own, or add them to any number of recipes.