How To Tell When Mussels Are Cooked Make the Most of Mussels With These Cooking Methods

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    Choose Fresh Mussels

    Mussels In a Bowl

    Steamed Mussels.
    Photo © Stuart Minzey/Getty Images

    Whether you want to steam, roast, or grill mussels, these shellfish are extremely forgiving and can be made into varied preparations. No matter how you choose to cook them, start with impeccably fresh and well-cleaned mussels.

    Most mussels for sale in the U.S. are farmed and come to the market fairly clean, but it’s a good practice to give them a good rinse in cool water and a light scrubbing if they seem gritty, as well as to pull out any “beards” they might have. But in general, a fresh mussel is closed or closes when you tap on it; discard any open mussels. Fresh mussels should smell like the sea and not like fish, so anything less than breeze and brine shouldn’t be consumed. 

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    Steam the Mussels

    Mussels Steamed in a Serving Bowl

    Steamed Mussels With Chile & Garlic.
    Photo © Molly Watson

    The first and most commonly used method for cooking mussels is steaming. Some cooks simply pour a bottle of white wine and a few pounds of mussels into a pot and call it a day. Although easy and hassle-free, this method can be enhanced by a few aromatics and seasonings. Try Mussels Steamed In White Wine or Mussels Steamed With Garlic and Chiles.

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    Pan-Roast the Mussels

    Italy, Impepata di cozze in pan

    Alessandro Guerani / Getty Images

    Pan-roasting mussels is a quick and easy method of cooking. Place the mussels in a hot cast iron or heavy bottom pan, then cook until they open; the high, dry heat concentrates the mussels’ flavor in a most pleasing way. Season with black pepper or minced parsley, or just serve plain with wedges of lemon as a garnish. Try pan-roasted mussels for a quick and filling meal. 

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    Grill the Mussels

    Grilled Mussels

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore


    Place the mussels on top of a very hot grill and pull them out once their shells are opened. Plate in a big serving bowl, sprinkle with Kosher salt and pepper, and serve with lemon wedges. Check this Grilled Mussels recipe for details. 

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    Serve Mussels Cold

    Cold Mussels

    Mussels With Corn Tomato Salsa.
    Photo © Molly Watson

    Cold mussels aren’t that common in the U.S., but that’s a very tasty way to enjoy them and a method of serving mussels that allows the cook to prepare them ahead of time. Simply steam the mussels, allow them to cool, and top them with a cold dressing. 

    A simple relish of shallots, vinegar, and fresh herbs like parsley and thyme is a classic option. A salsa of tomatoes and corn adds a spicy kick. They are remarkably tasty as long as the mussels are cooked, cooled, and served on the same day. 

    Although not standard, but safe, mussels can be served raw on the half-shell just like oysters. Raw mussels benefit from a dab of strongly flavored sauce, citrus-based vinaigrettes, herbs like parsley, cilantro, and dill, or extra virgin olive oil. 

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    Famous Moules Frites

    Steamed Mussels and French Fries

    Moules Frites.
    Photo © P. Eoche/Getty Images

    Moules Frites—steamed mussels with French fries—are a Belgian favorite, and beloved throughout France as well. A loaf of fresh, crusty bread is an equally fine accompaniment since pieces of it can be used to sop up the remarkably savory and delicious steaming liquid.

    Since the best French fries are fried twice, once to cook them and once to crisp them, and cooled in between, we suggest to do the first fry on the French fries, heat up the pot for the mussels while cooling off the fries, and then frying the potatoes for the second time while you cook the mussels, so all of the food goes to the table at the same time. 

Video about How To Tell When Mussels Are Cooked

How to Cook Mussels

Mussels are mighty tasty but often thought to be tricky to prepare. Watch as Sally reveals her top tips for how to cook mussels and shows you just how easy it can be.

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Serves 4
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

1 x 2kg net fresh mussels from the instore fish counter
Oats (optional)
Parsley to garnish ( optional)

1. Open the bag of mussels and tip them all into a large bowl.

2. If you wish sprinkle some oats over the surface of the water and place the bowl of mussels in the fridge. Leave for 4 hours or overnight to purge. The mussels will absorb the oats and will release any sand or grit that may be inside.

3. Drain the water and then take each mussel. Hold in one hand and pull the fibrous beard from the shell. Scrape off any barnacles if you wish.

4. Tap any open shells and watch to make sure that they firmly close up. Discard any broken mussels and those that will not close tightly.

5. Place the whole tightly closed mussels into a large pan. Add a splash of water. Cover with a lid and then bring up to the boil. Cook for 5 minutes, stir the mussels and check to see if the shells have opened. If the shells have not opened up, cover with a lid and cook for a further 5 minutes.

6. Using a small fork or by pincing an empty shell together, pull out the cooked mussels.

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