Why You Should Cook with Mussels

If you've never cooked with mussels, here are six good reasons why you should give them a try.

1. They’re safe to eat. Mussels are routinely tested by state and local agencies for the presence of algae-derived toxins. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program calls them a “Best Choice” for environmental sustainability.

2. They need almost no cleaning. Most mussels are cultivated on long ropes suspended from rafts, which leaves them free of sand and grit—and for the most part, beards. In general, all they need is a quick rinse under the tap. (But if you do find a few beards on your mussels, see below for how to remove them.)

3. It’s easy to tell when they’re fresh. A live mussel will smell pleasantly briny. If open, its shell should close up when lightly tapped (but give it a moment; some mussels take longer than others to clam up).

4. It’s equally easy to tell when they’re not. A dead mussel deteriorates rapidly and will smell almost immediately. Also discard any mussel with a cracked or broken shell or a shell that won’t close.

5. You can store mussels for up to three days. As soon as you bring them home, place them in a bowl, cover it with a wet paper towel, and store it in the fridge.

6. Unopened cooked mussels needn’t be discarded. A mussel that’s closed after cooking isn’t unfit to eat. It’s a sign that the mussel needs more cooking. To open a reluctant mussel, microwave it briefly (30 seconds or so).

How to Debeard Mussels

If your mussel has a beard, simply use a clean dish towel to grasp the beard and then pull it firmly to remove.