Mussels

Mussels are rich in juices and flavor. Grill or steam and enjoy as an appetizer or add to favorite seafood recipes.
See also shellfish.
 

Mussels are enjoyed for their juicy meat that is eaten raw or cooked. They’re mollusks and related to oysters and clams. Their abundance in coastal waters around the world makes them readily available for appetizers or as part of a main meal.

Steaming is the preferred preparation (as opposed to boiling). Moules a la Mariniere is the classic French method.

Varieties

Many species are harvested wild or farmed in protected waters. Blue mussels are the most common followed by larger New Zealand mussels.

Buying Tips

When purchasing, always ask for the date and location of the catch. Cultured mussels will have a better flavor than those that are wild-caught.

If shells are slightly opened, tap them. Live mollusks will respond by closing their shells. They must be alive before cooking.

Storage Tips

Fresh mussels should be eaten or frozen within four-ten days of harvesting. Place in a colander, cover with a wet cloth topped with ice cubes, and refrigerate. Drain the holding pan frequently.

Frozen mussels will keep up to a year. Canned varieties have a long shelf life as well, but once opened should be consumed within two days.

Usage Tips

The beard, which looks like a group of fibers, is what a mussel uses to attach to a surface. Trim away from the shell with scissors or pull by hand.

Scrub thoroughly under running water, but do not immerse. Cultured mussels will have cleaner shells.

After cooking, discard mussels whose shells are not wide open.

Retain the stock from steamed mussels. It contains the natural broth, or liquor, from inside the shell, which can be used as a marinade or saved for flavoring other dishes. Refrigerate and add to a Bloody Mary or plain tomato juice.

Mussels can be grilled. Place them – shells closed – over hot coals and heat until they open.

The meat may vary in color between males and females.

To eat raw mussels, use an empty shell to release and scoop out the meat.


Try one of our favorite mussels recipes:

Baked Mussels
Spicy Mussel Soup
Pasta with Mussels

by BigOven editorial team
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