Today, we’re going to talk about a topping that’s often overlooked, sometimes feared, and rarely the star of the show: the humble mushroom.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Mushrooms? Really? Isn’t that what you pick off when no one’s looking?”
But hear me out. Mushrooms are the unsung heroes of the pizza world.
They’re like the bass player in a rock band – you might not always notice them, but you’d miss them if they weren’t there.
From the everyday button mushroom to the fancy-pants morels, in this article, we’ll explore how these earthy delights can take your pizza from “meh” to “mamma mia!”
So buckle up, mushroom skeptics. It’s time to take a walk on the wild mushroom side!
In this article:
The Benefits of Adding Mushrooms to Pizza
There’s a whole world of mushroom varieties out there, each with its own unique flavor profile. From the commonly used button and cremini mushrooms to the more exotic shiitake and porcini, the options are endless.
Here are the top 5 benefits of adding mushrooms to your pizza:
1. Earthy and Rich Flavors
Each type of mushroom brings its own unique flavor profile to your pizza that complements the tangy tomato sauce and creamy cheese perfectly.
From the mild, earthy flavor of cremini mushrooms to the nutty, spicy taste of chanterelle, each mushroom offers a different taste, texture, and aroma.
White button mushrooms are the go-to choice for pizza toppings, given their widespread availability and cost-friendly nature.
Porcini mushrooms, known for their deep and earthy taste, are also a preferred option when they can be sourced.
However, the choice of mushrooms can vary greatly depending on personal preference, regional availability, and the style of pizza.
2. Meaty Texture
Mushrooms have a firm, meaty texture that can make your pizza feel more substantial. This makes them a great option for vegetarian pizzas, where they can stand in for traditional meat toppings.
3. Savory Umami Taste
Umami, frequently referred to as the fifth flavor following sweet, sour, salty, and bitter, embodies a savory, broth-like taste, which is notably present in mushrooms. This umami taste can make your pizza more satisfying and flavorful.
4. Nutritional Content
Mushrooms are rich in fiber and numerous vitamins and minerals, yet they have minimal calories and fat. They’re a good source of B vitamins, selenium, and potassium, making them a healthy topping choice.
5. Variety of Mushroom Options
Given the vast variety of mushrooms out there, you have the freedom to play around with diverse tastes and textures for your pizza. Try a mix of different mushrooms for a truly gourmet experience.
Practical Tips on How to Avoid Excess Moisture
One common issue when using mushrooms as a pizza topping is their high water content.
Mushrooms are over 90% water, and this can be released during cooking, potentially making your pizza soggy.
But don’t worry, there are several ways to avoid excess moisture:
One effective method is to sauté or roast the mushrooms before adding them to the pizza. This allows the excess water to evaporate, ensuring your mushrooms are full of flavor and not water.
Cutting your mushrooms into thinner slices can also help. When mushrooms are sliced thinly, they have a greater surface area, which facilitates more water evaporation while cooking.
Paper Towel Drying
After washing your mushrooms, pat them dry with a paper towel to remove any excess water. This can help prevent your pizza from becoming soggy.
When adding mushrooms to your pizza, less is more. Overcrowding can trap steam between the mushrooms, creating a soggy crust. Give your mushrooms room to breathe and they’ll reward you with a crispy, delicious pizza.
Salt is hygroscopic, which means it can absorb and retain water.
Sprinkling a small amount of salt on your mushrooms before cooking can help draw out the moisture, ensuring a crispy and flavorful pizza.
Recommended Types of Mushrooms for Pizza
Let’s explore some of the best types of mushrooms to use on your pizza.
1. White Button
White buttons are the most commonly used mushrooms for pizza, and for good reason.
They have a mild, earthy flavor that complements other toppings without overpowering them.
Plus, they’re affordable and easy to find, making them a perfect choice for beginner pizza makers.
If you’re new to the world of mushroom pizzas, buttons are a great place to start.
Cremini or baby bellas are a slightly older stage of white buttons. They are a bit larger and have a darker color.
Their flavor is more robust and earthy compared to white button mushrooms.
They have a firm, substantial texture that holds up well during cooking.
These versatile mushrooms are great at absorbing other flavors, making them a perfect balance of meatiness and blandness that can enhance any pizza.
Every pizza lover should seize the opportunity to experience the unique, slightly peppery flavor and delicate texture of chanterelle mushrooms, a gourmet topping that can truly elevate your pizza to new culinary heights.
They have a fruity flavor and a subtly spicy aroma that can add a unique twist to your pizza.
Chanterelles cook faster than other mushrooms, so they should be added later in the cooking process to avoid overcooking.
Sauté them until they’re glossy and fragrant for a truly delicious mushroom pizza.
Porcini are known for their earthy and woody flavor, as well as their unique shape.
They’re a bit more expensive than other mushrooms, but their rich flavor and nutritional value make them worth the splurge.
If fresh porcini are hard to find or out of your budget, dried ones are a great alternative. They’re widely available and cheaper, and when rehydrated, they still offer that distinctive flavor.
Porcini mushrooms pair well with other strong flavors, like the pine nuts in a pesto sauce pizza.
Just remember to pair these mushrooms carefully to avoid overpowering their unique flavor.
Portobellos are known for their hearty, meaty flavor and firm texture.
These large mushrooms are incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of ways on pizza.
Whether they’re sliced thin and used as a topping or grilled and used as a base for a low-carb pizza, portobello mushrooms are a delicious and healthy addition to any pizza.
They get their name from their physical resemblance to oysters.
They have a broad, fan, or oyster-shaped cap that ranges from white to gray or tan, and their flavor is often described as mild and slightly sweet with a texture that can be tender yet chewy.
They have an earthy, warm flavor that provides the perfect balance of sweet, earthy, and umami flavors.
To bring out the best in oyster mushrooms, consider marinating them before cooking.
A simple marinade of olive oil, garlic, and herbs can enhance their flavor and make them a standout topping on your pizza.
Morel mushrooms are a standout addition to any pizza.
Their taste is quite distinctive, often described as earthy, nutty, and unlike most other mushrooms, which is part of why morels are so sought after. A hint of subtle sweetness is also noted by some.
There are different varieties of morels, including darker morels that have a smoky flavor.
Despite their rarity, morel mushrooms are prized for their unique flavor and are definitely worth trying on your next pizza.
Enoki mushrooms, commonly used in Asian dishes, are known for their soft texture and subtle taste.
These mushrooms have long, thin stems and small, white, and fluffy caps that add a unique visual appeal to any dish.
Their mild flavor makes them a versatile addition to pizzas, where they can complement other toppings without overpowering them.
9. King Oyster
King Oysters are a larger, tougher variety of oyster mushrooms with a meaty texture and savory flavor.
They have a robust flavor profile that can stand up to other strong flavors, making them a great choice for a topping-heavy pizza.
While they can be a bit chewier than other mushroom varieties, their meaty texture and rich flavor make them a favorite among mushroom lovers.
Widely cherished in Asian dishes, Shiitake mushrooms are now gaining global popularity as a preferred pizza topping.
They have a meaty flavor and a tender mouthfeel when cooked, making them a delightful addition to any pizza.
Recognizable by their light brown color and slender body, Shiitake do have an inedible stem that should be removed before cooking.
Once prepared, they add a unique and delicious flavor to your pizza.
Maitake mushrooms, also known as Hen of the woods, have a distinct peppery and savory flavor that complements different types of meat.
Their rose-like shape adds visual appeal to your pizza, and they can be chopped or sliced, depending on your preference.
Sauté them before adding to your pizza, and pair with a strong cheese to balance their robust flavor.
While truffles and mushrooms are both part of the Fungi kingdom, they are different in their structure and growth habits.
Mushrooms typically have a stem and a cap, and they grow above ground or on the surface of their food source.
Truffles, on the other hand, grow underground in symbiotic association with the roots of certain trees and do not have the typical mushroom structure of a stem and a cap.
In common language, we often use the term “mushroom” to refer to fungi that have a stem and a cap.
So, while it’s technically correct to say that truffles are a type of fungus, it would be less accurate to call them a type of mushroom due to these differences in structure and growth habits.
In culinary terms, truffles are usually considered a separate category due to their unique flavor, aroma, and high price point.
It’s worth noting that truffle pizzas are generally considered a luxury item and can be quite expensive compared to regular pizzas.
For instance, there are reports of truffle pizzas costing up to $250 in five-star hotels.
If you’re looking for a more affordable way to enjoy the taste of truffles on your pizza, consider using truffle oil or truffle-infused cheese.
These products can provide a similar flavor profile at a fraction of the cost of fresh truffles.
How to Prepare and Cook the Best Mushroom Pizzas
Cooking mushroom pizzas requires attention to many details.
From cleaning and slicing the mushrooms to marinating them with olive oil and herbs, each step plays a crucial role in creating a pizza that’s bursting with flavor.
The key to a perfect mushroom pizza begins long before the oven is preheated, with the crucial step of cleaning the mushrooms.
Many pizza enthusiasts, in their quest for the perfect mushroom topping, make a common yet critical mistake: washing their mushrooms with water.
This seemingly innocent act is, in fact, a direct route to a pizza disaster.
Why, you ask? Well, because mushrooms act like tiny absorbents, soaking up water rapidly.
When these water-logged sponges hit the heat, they release that water, turning a potentially crispy, delicious pizza into a soggy mess.
According to Gordon Ramsay and many other chefs, rather than washing them, mushrooms should be gently cleaned with a soft brush or a dry paper towel to remove any dirt.
This method preserves their natural, earthy flavor and ensures they cook properly, without releasing excess water onto your pizza.
Slicing Mushrooms for Pizza
You can remove the stems, although this is optional and depends on personal preference. Some people find the stems to be a bit tough.
Then, slice them to your desired thickness.
Keep in mind, slicing mushrooms thinner increases their surface area. This helps more water evaporate during cooking, avoiding a soggy pizza.
Marinating with Olive Oil and Herbs
Marinating your mushrooms can take their flavor to the next level. Start by sautéing your mushrooms in a pan with olive oil and garlic.
This will intensify their flavor and help them release any excess moisture.
Next, mix the sautéed mushrooms with more olive oil and herbs such as rosemary and thyme if desired.
Let them marinate for at least 15 minutes to soak up the flavors before placing them on top of your pizza.
Cooking the Mushroom Pizzas in a Pizza Oven
Whether you’re using a pizza oven or a pizza stone, the key is to preheat it to a temperature of 425-450 F (220-230C).
This ensures that your pizza starts cooking as soon as it hits the heat, resulting in a crispy crust and perfectly cooked toppings.
Spread your chosen sauce on the pizza dough, then add a layer of cheese.
Keep in mind, when it comes to topping your pizza with mushrooms, restraint is key.
Piling on too many can lead to trapped steam, resulting in a damp crust.
Allow your mushrooms some space, and in return, they’ll contribute to a delightfully crunchy and tasty pizza.
A common recommendation for baking pizza in a standard home oven is to set the temperature as high as it will go, which is typically around 475-500 degrees Fahrenheit (245-260 degrees Celsius).
Bake your pizza until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned.
The result is a delicious, earthy mushroom pizza with a perfectly crispy crust.
Many pizza lovers often overlook the humble mushroom when choosing their toppings, but they’re missing out on a world of flavor.
Mushrooms bring a unique, earthy taste and a satisfying texture that can elevate any pizza to gourmet status.
From the commonly used white button and cremini to the more exotic porcini and truffles, there’s a mushroom for every palate.
So, I encourage you to broaden your culinary horizons. Next time you’re ordering or making a pizza, don’t forget the mushrooms.
Experiment with different mushroom types, try out the preparation techniques we’ve discussed and see how they elevate your pizza game.
If you have any questions or comments, or if you’ve discovered a new favorite mushroom topping for your pizza, we’d love to hear from you!