Beefsteak mushrooms are a relatively rare, edible mushroom related to chicken and hen of the woods. They have a mildly tart taste, can be eaten raw, and a good, crisp texture when young. They're a good mushroom to know if you're a forager.
My friend Alex, a mushroom hunting guide and I chat about what mushrooms are popping up or the occasional oddball shroom we can’t find an ID for. Last year she sent me a picture of an interesting mushroom asking if I had an opinion on it.
It was a polypore, shelf-type growing from a tree, but not just any polypore. A chicken of the woods or a dryad’s saddle are a dime a dozen compared to what we both knew was in the photo: a beefsteak mushroom, or Fistulina hepatica.
From my experience many mushroom hunters have never even heard of them. Beefsteak mushrooms, (also known as ox tongue mushrooms or fungus depending on your adjective preference) are a relatively rare polypore, the closest I’d come to eating them was reading about them in David Arora’s Mushrooms Demystified, and Anthony Carluccio’s The Complete Mushroom.
They’re rare in their look, but also in flavor. The mushroom itself is red, resembling meat, and gives off a red juice when sliced, kind of like a very young chicken of the woods will leak a fragrant orange liquid when they’re very young.
Beefsteak mushrooms, like their cousins chicken of the woods and hen of the woods, are parasites, in my area, I really only see them on oaks, typically at the base of the tree, or on stumps.
I see them sporadically throughout the summer, and they seem to fruit heaviest in late summer, around august through September, at least from my experience.
The flavor is where things are supposed to get interesting. They’re a mushroom often eaten raw, supposedly with a sour flavor like sorrels (for the record it is only subtly sour, not at all as potent as any oxalis species I've consumed).
In a world where 99% of mushroom dishes are made with the same, bland cultivated mushroom cooked with cream or made into stroganoff, the beefsteak holds a place that’s pretty unique.
I got excited. Alex said the mushroom was a little beaten up, but asked if I wanted to take a look at it, which I of course I did. She stopped by with a couple mushrooms and a paper bag filled with something wet, and heavy.
I remember holding the weight in my hands and peaking inside the bag, digesting feelings of excitement and uneasiness. What was in the bag resembled something from a murder scene: wet, bloody looking and viscous, it didn’t exactly evoke inspiration.
I took the bag home to clean and inspect them the next morning. I wasn’t the first to sample my beefsteak mushroom, slugs had already dined on the pores underneath.
Unlike when slugs and insects munch on hen of the woods though, or other similar polypores, the only portion of the mushroom they touched was the pores, the flesh or meaty part was completely untouched.
Surprising too was the complete lack of any white larvae, not a single one. Some mushrooms have natural resistance to the larvae, the beefsteak definitely has one if not the strongest resistance I’ve seen in a polypore.
I’m no scientist, but I might chalk it up to the sourness of the flesh, since acids like oxalis in plants (sorrel) can function as a defense mechanism against animals eating them.
Cooking / Eating
Accounts of eating beefsteak mushrooms are not exactly common, but one similar thing I read is that people say they’re sour like sorrel, with a texture like meat.
Well, from what I ate that's right, kind of. Sliced thin, the mushrooms are tender, with a little chewy bounce to them.
The flavor itself isn’t anything remotely close to the powerful oxalic sour of sorrel or rhubarb. It does has a tartness, but the flavor to me came off diluted by the large amount of water the mushroom retains. In short it was slightly tart, tender, and watery.
The beefsteak was going to need some help. First I started by just putting some salt on it, which was better, then I started a few other experiments. They were seared in a hot pan, marinated, roasted in big pieces and sliced, then marinated, brined, dredged and fried, all kinds of stuff.
A lot of the resources I saw online said that the mushrooms will need long cooking to be tender, I didn't have that problem at all.
Sliced thin, as pictured below, I had no problem with them having a tough texture. Cooking was not my favorite, the mushrooms didn't taste like much, held a lot of water, and lost the crisp, tender texture that was so pleasing in the fresh mushroom.
I found I liked them raw, mixed with other ingredients and prepared simply, enjoying them the most when they tasted pure and un-manipulated. Beefsteaks are a fascinating wild mushroom, I just wish they tasted more sour!
A mushroom born to eat raw
After a few more years of cooking with these, I can definitely tell you that beefsteaks are best eaten raw-a novelty and anomaly among wild mushrooms. You don't need any fancy techniques or equipment for them to shine.
The first thing I made with them was a simple tomato salad. Over the years I've added a few others that are scattered throughout this post, seasoned with wood sorrel is one of the best, as is a simple tartare preparation where they take the place of diced meat.
Beefsteak Mushrooms with Sorrel and Lemon
Heirloom Tomato and Beefsteak Mushroom Salad
- ½ lb heirloom tomatoes or more to taste
- Fresh arugula as needed, about 1 ounce
- A small handful of toasted croutons diced ½ inch
- 2 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano cheese broken into small bite sized pieces
- Extra virgin olive oil to taste
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 2 ounces fresh beefsteak mushrooms pores removed, mushroom flesh wiped and cleaned, and sliced thinly into ¼ inch pieces
- Using a paring knife, remove the cores from the tomatoes. Slice the tomatoes or cut them into wedges, whatever you prefer, or whatever looks best with their particular shapes, then arrange the on plates with the mushrooms and season with salt, pepper and some good olive oil.
- Scatter some of the cheese and croutons over each plate.
- Top the salad with some arugula, then serve immediately.
Funnily enough Alan - I just had some for lunch. Carpaccio style, with some dry sauteed girolle, wood sorrel and a blackberry balsamic dressing. The thought process being that the sorrel would enhance the tartness whilst the balsamic adds a sweet note. Picture is up on my Instagram account - wyltshyrespyder.
This was my first of this season but as I'm lucky enough to live close to an old oak woods I'll be sick of them by Christmas!
I make sushi with them raw. Try that!
I Found Some In My Land They Look Like Beef Stik on The Trees.I wonder What's the Price For A Decent Piece .
$15 / lb
I shave with a vegetable peeler into strips (raw) and coat in coarse salt and sugar for quick pickle. Add as garnish to green salad almost like sweet pickled shallot. Sour makes salad pop. / I have and advice from foragers on Instagram to soak it in milk before cooking, my experiments with cooking were not successful.....
I have found only one in Minnesota in 35 years of mushroom hunting—a perfect fresh specimen. I tried a few different things. The one I liked best was a Thai style light stir fry with vegetables, cilantro, lime leaf, and fish sauce served over rice noodles. The acidity of the mushroom worked really well, and the texture was similar to beef. I've been checking the same stump for the past five years but it has not reappeared.
You're in Pennsylvania I find them quite often I've cooked them I have eaten them raw all ways are delicious. Small slivers fried like bacon are delicious and great on top of salads
Makes excellent jerky
We slice thin, marinate in teriyaki, and dry in dehydrator. They lose their lemony flavor when dried, And it's difficult to tell the difference between it and a crispy beef jerky recipe.
What do I have. Trying to send a picture. May need your email. Think it looks similar to beefsteak. Need email to send pictures. Found it today near Pittsburgh.
I was surprised to find one of these in my backyard yesterday, growing on an oak stump. It's a pretty distinctive mushroom and I was fairly certain I knew what I had stumbled upon immediately when I discovered it - so I picked it then brought it inside to identify at leisure away from mosquitos (they've been rather vicious this year). The mushroom wasn't there yesterday - at least that I'd observed. I walk past the same point every day, and am pretty good about noting such things. We've had a lot of rain and warm days, so rapid fungus growth really doesn't surprise me right now.
You can see an image while I was giving it a precautionary anti-bug soak - it stained my hands red, and soaking it brought out strange streaking on the top of the mushroom. Interestingly, when I set the mushroom down on an unstained bookcase it also left a stain on the bookcase. There was one little black beetle crawling around on the mushroom surface, but none within and no worms. I ought to have taken photographs of the mushroom before I soaked, upper and underside, and also when sliced, I don't know what I was thinking. I found the tubes on the bottom for which it was named fascinating to look at under a magnifying glass. It had an interesting pale interior that looked as though it was white meat tinted with blood - it reminded me greatly of medium rare pork. As I mentioned, the mushroom was quite young!
I sautéed the mushroom at low heat with butter, sliced thinly, then lightly salted it. This is, quite honestly, my default preparation for every mushroom the first time I try it. I found this one delightful. I had intended to put it on top of my salad, as I had fresh lettuce from my garden, but it smelled, and tasted so delicious that the mushroom never made it into the greens. It had a delightful meaty texture which was pleasant to chew. I'd read that the mushroom had an 'astringent' flavor, but of course that's just a synonym for "acidic". My tongue instead told me it tasted rather like lemon.
I liked it a good deal - more than many other wild mushrooms I've had. Orders of magnitude better than the puffball; significantly better than the shaggy mane, oyster, or sulfur shelf; probably as desirable as a chanterelle. Not quite as wonderful as a morel - but perhaps if the taste were acquired it would be as much in demand.
Good for you! Can I ask where you're located abouts? Are you in the Midwest? What type of stump: oak?
I'm in central Minnesota. The stump was indeed oak - white oak, in fact. I'd have never known, but we cut down the tree ourselves, as it was a victim of oak wilt, which is hitting all the oak species in our area pretty hard.
I am eating it while typing. Sautéed it in butter on high heat until the liquid is gone. Too sour for me. Added banana to the pan. Cooked another few minutes. Added parsley and cilantro. Pretty good.
I didn't enjoy it cooked either, which is why you will only see raw preparations on this site.
i write from Italy. From central Italy.
In this area I find many Fistulina Hepatica. They are located at the foot of chestnut trees.
I ate it often prepared like carpaccio.
(Marinated in oil (EVO) lemon and salt, then served with added oil (EVO), lemon, pepper, salt and flaked Parmesan cheese)
Now I have to experiment with other types of cooking as I have some in the refrigerator found yesterday morning.
I'll have some photos 🙂
(Sorry for my English)
Andrea your English is great. Thanks for sharing, e bouna fortuna con gli funghi 😉
Andrea, I'm a professional forager and my wife and I will be in Italy the last week of October and first week of November. Passing through Lazio, Molise, Umbria and Tuscany to visit farmer and forager friends. If you're in one of those places (or also Abruzzi or Marche) would love to talk foraging. Can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org and http://www.frankhyman.com. Thanks!
I bought an enooormous one... I marinated it, then sauté it and then dried it in my deshydrator. It kind of tastes a bit like jerky now which is good... as I don't eat meat. Very interesting one.
I'll have to try jerky with them.
Roger Van Hout
I'm probably a bit late to the party, but I just used the fistulina hepatica as topping (raw, thin sliced) for my sushi and it feels a bit like tuna. A bit tasteless, but it had a nice mouth feeling.
Yes, they need to be seasoned to have any flavor. The texture, seasoned and eaten straight away, is the best part. I've heard reports of some being more sour than others, but all the ones I've tried have been a bit mild.
Found my first beefsteak today. Read the post so I just went for it. Sliced across the grain 1/2" to 3/4" thick. Butter, little garlic. Heated it up and tossed them in. Looked in pantry found some Montreal steak seasoning, sprinkled it on,. Looked in fridge had a bottle of worscestershire sauce drizzled it on. Cooked til it browned a bit. Delishish. Almost like a rare steak. Found an old oak while hunting that is loaded with them. Definitely will be back to get some more. Thanks Alan. love your website and ideas.
any idea if it's possible to grow these indoors or farm them?
I've never heard of anyone growing F. hepatica.
Wow! Love this page - I just found one today In Merseyside, UK and prepared some raw as sushi and then fried up a bacon ???? sized slab!
I love it!
One of my all time favorites! Raw/Sashimi style with rice vinegar, scallion oil, toasted scallions, very thin sliced jalapeño peppers and cilantro.
Yep, that's a great one. I do carpaccio style too with capers, onions and parm and it's great.
Kseniya A Golubeva
I love the beefsteak mushroom, however it does not taste like sorrel ( I have a sorrel garden). I just found several beefsteaks of various maturity and was able to experiment with different cooking methods.
My favorite was slices cooked "hibachi" style on a hot himalayan salt slab in the middle of the table with a shiraz and fig reduction for dipping sauce.
As I mention in the post, it is not sour like sorrel, and the comparison is erroneous. These are best consumed raw, cooked they're not that great.
I just found a good side beefsteak it was great because here in cape cod Massachusetts almost never can be found.
I cook it within an hour with very good olive oil, fresh peppers and onions and multi-grain pasta.
It was great.
I’m in the U.K. and it’s much more common here. I’ve found a handful during the last 3 years, including one today that was easily 5 times the size of my hand! Let me know if there’s an email address I can send it to if you’d like to see the photo 🙂