is supported by our Pitmaster Club. Also, when you buy with links on our site we may earn a finder’s fee. Click to see how we test and review products.

Barbecued Mushrooms Use a Revolutionary (and Delicious!) Press and Sear Technique

Share on:

Looking for something new to barbecue? You’ll love big cluster mushrooms cooked low and slow with this innovative press-and-sear technique.

If you love the taste of meat, you probably like the taste of mushrooms, too. Meat and mushrooms have some of the same minerals and flavor compounds, giving them a similar savory taste. The Japanese call it “umami” or deliciousness. But unlike meat, mushrooms contain 90% water, which dilutes the flavor.

An innovative press-and-sear technique capitalizes on that flavor. I first came across this technique while working with chefs Chad Sarno and Derek Sarno on The Wicked Healthy Cookbook. (Full disclosure: I helped these badass brothers write the book, and I fell in love with their recipes.) The genius of the press-and-sear technique is not only that it evaporates water and concentrates the flavor and texture of mushrooms, it also creates a deep, brown sear which amps up the meaty taste even more.

I asked the chefs how they first came up with this technique. “I live in Austin,” said Chad Sarno, “and I love smoky food like smoked jalapeños and smoky BBQ sauces.” Brother Derek agreed, “It’s about enjoying all the decadence of smoky BBQ with mushrooms. After I moved from Austin to Portland, Oregon, I saw giant mushrooms everywhere. I started doing this press-and-sear technique at home and found so many uses for it.”

Chad Sarno and Derek Sarno making bbq mushrooms

The book is full of recipes using the technique, and my favorite is Barbecued Maitake Steaks. This recipe gives avid backyard chefs something new to barbecue, and by that I mean low and slow smoking. It also gives you something to really satisfy the vegetarians and vegans at your next outdoor gathering. The mushrooms taste fantastic. If you love meat, don’t be surprised if you find yourself nibbling on and enjoying these barbecued mushrooms, too.

It’s amazing how these barbecued mushrooms end up looking like a smoked brisket or flank steak. The key is to use a big cluster mushroom like maitake (a.k.a. hen of the woods). You press and sear the whole cluster in a heavy skillet, which flattens it out into a steak-like shape and gives the mushroom a super satisfying chew. After pressing and during barbecuing, you can scatter or slather whatever rub and sauce you like all over the ‘shrooms. Just like you would with a hunk of meat.

Brown It and Smoke It

Here’s how Chad and Derek Sarno describe the technique and why they use it so often. “We love flavor and texture, and we developed this press-and-sear technique to intensify the taste and texture of mushrooms. It makes them super dense and meaty. The flavor comes from driving off some water and concentrating the natural savory or ‘umami’ taste of mushrooms. It also comes from searing and browning the mushrooms. We think that browning is the single most important technique to making food taste better than it already does. It’s the first thing you do in most cooking. Brown onions in a pan. Roast vegetables in a hot oven. Toast spices. It’s an absolutely essential technique because it creates new flavors in the food that were not there before. New flavors! When onions cook in a pan and go from white to gold to amber to deep brown, they get more and more flavorful because the natural sugar caramelizes. The darker the color, the deeper the flavor. Browning can happen in a hot pan, a hot oven, under a hot broiler, or on a hot grill. Either way, the process creates those aromatic and savory caramelized flavors that we recognize as GBD: golden brown and delicious.

A little fat on the surface of mushrooms helps them brown more evenly. The fat seeps into all the nooks and crannies and delivers heat to all areas of the food for more thorough browning—and deeper flavor. You only need a thin film of oil. Our favorite method is to simply rub some oil in our hands, then massage the mushrooms with the oil so they’re evenly coated all over.

Another layer of flavor here comes from the char and smoke of the grill or smoker. Charring is an extreme form of browning, and it tastes incredibly good. Char is what’s exciting about the blistered crust on a pizza and the grill marks on zucchini. Don’t be afraid to burn it a little. A little goes a long way because the flavor is so intense and concentrated. A hot charcoal or wood grill is our favorite method of introducing some char. The advantage of a grill (over, say, a broiler) is that it also adds smoke flavor. Smoke is yet another layer of flavor to add to your food. Smoke comes from wood, so grill with hardwood charcoal whenever possible—or better yet, wood chips or chunks. Even an inexpensive charcoal kettle grill can add great smoke flavor. There’s just something primal about char and smoke that makes us salivate.”

variety of mushrooms on grass

Make It Chewy

The chefs went on to describe how the press-and-sear technique improves the chewiness of mushrooms. “Here’s one of the more elusive food textures—and one of the most satisfying. Humans like to chew. That’s why chewing gum is so popular! Think of the chewy crust on a perfect pizza or the al dente texture of perfectly cooked pasta. It’s just so satisfying to sink your teeth into it. Good whole-grain bread also has that chew, and so does dried fruit like apricots, raisins, dates, and dried figs. We developed the press-and-sear method, in part, to get more chew out of mushrooms. It brings awesome chew to all kinds of mushrooms. Once pressed and seared, you can just serve the chewy mushrooms with your favorite sauce and a knife and fork, or you can slice up the ‘shrooms and slap into a sandwich, or skewer them and serve them with a dip.”

Press-and-Sear Mushrooms: The Technique in Detail

Clearly, these guys love mushrooms. They explained their technique like this, “Ok, we admit it. We love ’shrooms. They are the meat of the plant world and one of the best sources of savory umami flavor. And they are infinitely improved by the press-and-sear technique. This ‘patented’ Wicked Healthy cooking method is pretty simple and has a big WOW! factor. Just heat up a cast-iron pan or other heavy pan until it’s wicked hot. Then rub the mushrooms all over with vegetable oil. Or if you don’t like to get dirty, add a thin film of oil to the pan. Then add as many mushrooms or mushroom clusters as you can fit in the pan.

maitake mushroom in cast iron pan

Put a second heavy pan or a foil-wrapped brick or other heavy weight on top of the ’shrooms and press them down, searing them in the pan. When they’re good and browned on the bottom, flip the ’shrooms and season the browned side with a little salt, pepper, or other seasonings.

pressed and seared maitake mushroom in cast iron pan

Then repeat the process, flipping and seasoning the other browned side. The mushrooms will get crispy and browned on both sides; the water will evaporate, which concentrates the flavor; and the heavy weight compresses the mushrooms, which concentrates the texture and makes them wicked dense and chewy. From there, you can eat the ’shrooms straight up with sauce or marinate and barbecue them later.”

This press-and-sear method works with any mushroom from plain white button mushrooms to big chicken-of-the-woods mushrooms. The chefs especially love what it does to lion’s mane and maitake mushrooms. Check out the Barbecued Maitake Steaks recipe here. Seriously, try them. This cooking method will change the way you think about mushrooms. For more recipes using this method, including Lion’s Mane Street Tacos and King Satay with Spicy Peanut Ginger Sauce, have a look at The Wicked Healthy Cookbook.

Wicked Healthy Cookbook cover

This article is adapted with permission from The Wicked Healthy Cookbook by Chad Sarno, Derek Sarno, and David Joachim (Grand Central Life & Style, 2018). Photographs © 2018 by Eva Kosmas Flores.

Related articles

Published On: 9/11/2018 Last Modified: 4/15/2021

Share on:
  • Dave Joachim - Editor of, David Joachim has authored, edited, or collaborated on more than 45 cookbooks, four of them on barbecue and grilling, and his Food Science column has appeared in "Fine Cooking" magazine since 2011. He’s a perfect match for a website dedicated to the “Science of Barbecue and Grilling.”


High quality websites are expensive to run. If you help us, we’ll pay you back bigtime with an ad-free experience and a lot of freebies!

Millions come to every month for high quality tested recipes, tips on technique, science, mythbusting, product reviews, and inspiration. But it is expensive to run a website with more than 2,000 pages and we don’t have a big corporate partner to subsidize us.

Our most important source of sustenance is people who join our Pitmaster Club. But please don’t think of it as a donation. Members get MANY great benefits. We block all third-party ads, we give members free ebooks, magazines, interviews, webinars, more recipes, a monthly sweepstakes with prizes worth up to $2,000, discounts on products, and best of all a community of like-minded cooks free of flame wars. Click below to see all the benefits, take a free 30 day trial, and help keep this site alive.

Post comments and questions below


1) Please try the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help.

2) Try to post your question to the appropriate page.

3) Tell us everything we need to know to help such as the type of cooker and thermometer. Dial thermometers are often off by as much as 50°F so if you are not using a good digital thermometer we probably can’t help you with time and temp questions. Please read this article about thermometers.

4) If you are a member of the Pitmaster Club, your comments login is probably different.

5) Posts with links in them may not appear immediately.



Click for comments...


These are not ads or paid placements. These are some of our favorite tools and toys.

These are products we have tested, won our top awards, and are highly recommend. Click here to read how we test, about our medals, and what they mean.

Use Our Links To Help Keep Us Alive

A big part of this site is our unbiased equipment and product reviews. We love playing with toys and we have no problem calling them the way we see them. Some companies pay a finder’s fee if a reader clicks a link on and buys a product. It has zero impact on our reviews, zero impact on the price you pay, and the sites never tell us what you bought, but it has a major impact on our ability to keep this site alive! So before you buy, please click our links. Here’s a link that takes you to a page on Amazon that has some of our favorite tools and toys:

Blackstone Rangetop Combo: Griddle And Deep Fryer In One

The flat top does the burgers and the fryer does the fries. Use the griddle for bacon, eggs, grilled cheese, and so much more. And why deep fry indoors when you can avoid the smell and mess by doing it outside!

Click here to read our detailed review and to order

Is This Superb Charcoal Grill A Kamado Killer?

The PK-360, with 360 square inches of cooking space, this rust free, cast aluminum charcoal grill is durable and easy to use. Four-way venting means it’s easy to set up for two zone cooking with more control than single vent Kamado grills. It is beautifully designed, completely portable, and much easier to set up for 2-zone cooking than any round kamado.

Click here to read our detailed review of the PK 360

Click here to order directly and get an exclusive deal

The Good-One Is A Superb Grill And A Superb Smoker All In One

The Good-One Open Range is dramatically different from a traditional offset smoker. By placing the heat source behind and under the smokebox instead of off to the side, Open Range produces even temperature from left to right, something almost impossible to achieve with a standard barrel shaped offset.

Click here to read our complete review

Compact Powerful Sear Machine For Your Next Tailgater

Char-Broil’s Grill2Go x200 is a super-portable, fun little sizzler made of heavy, rust-proof cast aluminum. The lid snaps shut. Grab the handle and you’re off to the party! Char-Broil’s TRU-Infrared design produces searing heat while reducing fuel consumption. A 16 ounce LP gas canister is enough to keep you flipping burgers for hours.

Click here to read our detailed review and to order

GrillGrates Take Gas Grills To The Infrared Zone

GrillGrates(TM) amplify heat, prevent flareups, make flipping foods easier, kill hotspots, flip over to make a fine griddle, and can be easily moved from one grill to another. You can even throw wood chips, pellets, or sawdust between the rails and deliver a quick burst of smoke.

Click here for more about what makes these grates so special

The Efficiency Of A Kamado Plus The Flexibility Of The Slow ‘N Sear Insert

kamado grill
Built around SnS Grill’s patented Slow ‘N Sear charcoal kettle accessory, this 22-inch kamado is a premium ceramic grill that brings true 2-zone cooking to a kamado.

Click here for our article on this exciting cooker

Groundbreaking Hybrid Thermometer!

Thermapen One Instant Read Thermometer

The FireBoard Spark is a hybrid combining instant-read capability, a cabled temperature probe, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. We gave Spark a Platinum Medal for pushing the envelope of product capability while maintaining high standards of design and workmanship.

Click here to read our comprehensive Platinum Medal review