If I could recommend one mushroom for someone who wants to get into foraging wild mushrooms, it would be Chicken of the Woods. This mushroom is also known as a Sulphur Shelf mushroom. It is easily identifiable by it’s bright color and large size. Although it can be found anytime from early spring to late fall, I have found that September and October is the best time of year to find it in Southern Ohio. This October while bowhunting whitetail with my daughter in tow, I spotted some Chicken mushrooms from nearly 100 yards away, the bright orange gleaming like a beacon on the pile of dead logs. I ended up leaving with two grocery bags full, plenty to eat for dinner and plenty to store for later in the year.
Despite the fact that there are no deadly look alike for Chicken of the Woods, there are a few golden rules to follow when foraging for them.
First, only pick them if they are on dead trees or logs. If you see a bright orange mushroom growing from a young healthy tree, chances are it’s not a Chicken Mushroom. They also never grow on the ground, there are no exceptions to this rule.
When going to pick these mushrooms, use a sharp knife and cut them from the tree. You will notice they have virtually no stem and they don’t have any “gills” like many mushrooms. They are smooth with wavy edges, and can vary slightly in color but are generally all the same “sea shell” shape. The underside will be a solid cream to yellow color, and the top will be some shade of orange, sometimes with yellow coloring on the edges. The mushrooms tend to be very vibrant when young, and fade as they age. You will want to get them when they are young, as they are the most tender. As they age, they tend to get tough and filled with bugs.
Once you have found and picked your mushrooms, you’ll want to clean them. Most other mushrooms can be tossed into a bowl of salt water to get rid of the bugs and dirt, however that’s not the case here. Chicken Mushrooms will soak up water and become soggy and flavorless. To clean them, you’ll simply want to wipe them off with a clean damp rag or sponge, and use a soft bristle brush to scrub out any dirt if needed.
These mushrooms store well in the refrigerator for up to a week, and they freeze very well. Clean, slice into strips, and vacuum seal; store in the freezer until ready to use. I only recently discovered how well they preserve in the freezer, and now have several full bags of them for future use.
People will often ask if these mushrooms really taste like chicken and I’m here to tell you, yes. Yes, they do. I was very unsure how to make them the first time I foraged Chicken mushrooms, and went with a simple breading and fried them. They were absolutely amazing, and I have since made them in various recipes that call for chicken. My latest recipe I stumbled across while scrolling Facebook, and it was a hit!
Rice Pilaf with Chicken Mushrooms:
- 4 Tbsp butter & 2 Tbsp butter, divided
- 1 1/2 cups of finely chopped Chicken mushrooms
- ½ cup white onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup long grain white rice
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- In a large skillet, heat 4 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat until melted. Add the mushrooms and sauté until soft. This could take a few minutes as these mushrooms are hardier than most.
- Once the mushrooms are tender, add your onion and continue to cook over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent. Add your garlic and remaining 2 tablespoons butter and sauté a few more minutes. At this point, you can add your salt and pepper to taste.
- Add your rice to the skillet and stir until the rice is well coated. Remove from the heat and add everything from the skillet to a baking dish. (I used one that was roughly 7”x11” but an 8”x8” would work just fine.) Pour your broth overtop of the rice and use a spoon to pat everything into an even layer.
- Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Let sit 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork and serve. I like to garnish with fresh chopped parsley. This pairs very well with venison steak or roast chicken!
Need wild game meat for a recipe you've been wanting to try? Check out GameKeeper Butchery. GameKeeper Butchery is dedicated to procuring the finest assortment and highest quality of specialty meats from the United States and around the world. Our commitment is to deliver the safest, freshest and most wholesome products.