How to Cook Mussels

A guide to buying, storing, and cooking mussels that will give you the confidence to prepare mussel dishes at home.

Baja Med Mussels
Photo: Jacob Fox

If the idea of cooking mussels intimidates you, you’re not alone. But take heart, they’re actually one of the easiest seafood choices to prepare and the good news is: We’ll share with you how long to cook mussels so you can enjoy tender mussels with loads of flavor as well as how to buy, clean, and store them. We even have easy recipes to show you how to steam, cook, and grill mussels using a pressure cooker or slow cooker. So, here’s how to cook mussels for a delicious meal at home.

What are Mussels?

Mussels are marine bivalve mollusks that are sold live with tightly closed shells. The creamy-tan meat is tougher than the meat of the oyster or clam and has a delicious, slightly sweet flavor. The most abundant type of mussel is the blue (or common) mussel found along the Mediterranean, Atlantic, and Pacific coasts. Known for its dark blue shell that is 2 to 3 inches long, mussels are generally available year-round.

How to Buy and Store Mussels

Be sure to buy mussels with tightly closed shells or those that snap shut when tapped. Choose smaller mussels when available—the meat will be more tender than larger ones. Store live mussels in the refrigerator, covered with a moist cloth, in an open container and use them within a day or two.

How to Prepare Mussels for Cooking

Scrub live mussels, under cold running water with a food brush to remove any debris. Check each one while you’re scrubbing—the shell should be free from cracks and tightly closed. If the shell is gaping slightly, tap it gently on the counter. The mollusk should react by shutting its shell—if it doesn’t react, throw it away because it has already died and is possibly spoiled. Using your fingers, pull out beards (dark fibers or byssal threads that allow the mussels to attach themselves to surfaces in the sea) that are visible between the shells by grasping them between your thumb and forefinger and wriggle it back and forth while pulling out.

How Long Do Mussels Take to Cook

Cooking mussels will take 5 to 7 minutes, so here’s what you need to get started: If you want to cook two servings of mussels, add ½ inch water or other liquid to an 8-qt. pot and bring it to boiling. Place 24 mussels in a steamer basket. Steam, covered, 5 to 7 minutes or until shells open. Discard any mussels that do not open.

Easy Mussel Recipes

Perfect for a busy weeknight or special occasion, this 30-minute recipe featuring mussels cooked in a white wine sauce makes a beautiful presentation and will have your family begging for more.

Try grilling mussels to make this restaurant-quality dish. A garlic butter wine sauce adds the perfect touch to this speedy recipe that will have dinner on the table in less than 20 minutes.

Kick up the flavor of mussels with this impressive recipe that features lemon-infused ingredients cooked in a pressure cooker or slow cooker.

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