How to Store, Clean & Cook Mussels

How to store, clean and cook mussels

To store:

Mussels are kind of tricky. Why are the not so easy to cook? Because you purchase them alive! And you have to keep them alive until you cook them! A dead mussel in your food can make you very, very sick. So, the tricky part is to make sure that you don’t kill them while you’re storing or cleaning them. Here’s what I’ve learnt, and I’m sharing the most conservative method which involves the least amount of risk, because that’s what I do.

  1. Buy them on the day that you will cook them.
  2. Store them in a bowl covered with a damp cloth/paper towel in the fridge.

To Clean:

Mussels are bottom dwellers, so they contain quite a bit of sand. Wild caught mussels have more sand than farmed mussels. Mussels farmed on ropes shouldn’t have any sand in them.

  1. Now I’ve read so much about how to clean them. First, examine each mussel. If the shell is cracked or broken, discard it. The shell should be tightly shut. If it is open, gently tap it on the counter, this should cause the mussel to close the shell in a couple of minutes. If it remains open, it is dead, discard it.
  2. You can also give them a sniff to see if they smell rotten.
  3. Scrub the mussels with a stiff brush and run them under cold water to clean the shells.
  4. You’ll see a little hairy mass called the beard near the shell opening. Yank it or cut it to remove it.

Now, the biggest problem- how to remove the sand. I’ve read about many (conflicting) methods. One is to soak them in cold water until all the sand comes out, but some people say that tap water will kill them so don’t soak them! Others say soak them in salt water and yet others say to add corn meal to the water which they will feed on and expel the sand inside the shell in the process. This is all too complicated for me, so I just clean them under running water. Then I proceed to cook them.

To Cook:

  1. For my Seafood Stir Fry Recipe, bring 1/2 a cup of water to a boil in a pot big enough to hold the mussels, preferably with a glass lid. Add the mussels and cover and cook on medium to medium low heat just until the shells pop open. Again, like all seafood, over cooking will ruin them. The mussels will release their own liquid into the broth, which is very flavorful and quite salty. For this reason, salt is not added to the mussels while cooking them.
  2. Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon and keep aside.
  3. Strain the liquid through a coffee filter to remove all the sand!
  4. Now you can use the liquid as directed above.
  5. If you’re just making mussels, then make a sauce with the liquid (usually heavy cream and herbs or tomatoes are added) and pour over the mussels. Serve with an Italian bread. Usually, 1 pound of mussels per person is a good estimate.