• Gary Corcoran

How to cook mussels

Updated: Dec 9, 2020

Buying and cooking fresh mussels can be intimidating for the new cook, but it's worth learning how to do it.

Buying mussels:

Depending on where you live, it might be difficult for you to find fresh mussels, but when you do, inspect them carefully before buying them to ensure most of them are closed. If a lot of them are gaping open, don’t buy them as they are probably not fresh and many may be dead. You should plan for about 1 pound of mussels for each person.

Preparing mussels:

Aggressively wash the mussels in several changes of cold water. Start by adding your mussels to a bowl or in your sink and half cover with cold water. Get both your hands in and aggressively move the mussels around, rubbing the shells together. Your water should look murky at this time. Rinse and repeat till water is clear.

Now it’s time to pick over the mussels. Any that are open may be dead and should be discarded. To check if the mussel is dead or alive, give the shell a tap against a hard object. If it’s alive, it will slowly start to close, so it’s good to keep. If it’s doesn’t close, discard it.

The opposite is also true once the mussels are cooked. Any mussels that remain closed after cooking should be discarded as they are dead. Don’t attempt to open them, just discard immediately. Only use the mussels that have opened wide.

Cooking mussels:

In a pot large enough to hold your mussels, heat on high for a minute. Add whatever flavouring you've decided on for your recipe (such as wine and bay leaves) in with the mussels. Cover and cook for about 7 - 8 minutes till mussels have opened and partially disconnected from their shells.

Depending on how many mussels you’re cooking, you may have to cook them in batches. If you have never cooked mussels, you will be surprised by how little water or wine you need to cook them. The reason is that the mussels are closed tightly and hold a fair amount of water in the shell. All this water is released during the cooking process, creating a ton of wonderful tasting broth.

Discard any mussels that are still tightly closed. They are dead and should not be consumed.

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