How to Buy and Clean Mussels

Mussels are my favorite seafood it’s easy and fast to cook.  Mussels are generally daunting to many because, it could lead to food poisoning. The proper way to buy and cleaning it, can guarantee that you enjoy your mussels without being anxious about consequences.

The vast majority of mussels you’ll find at the market are farm raised. Most farm raised mussels are grown on vertical rope farms, which means that they come to market quite clean while wild mussels can have a good amount of debris from the seabed or rock walls they grew on.  To remove the debris from wild mussels you need to begin cleaning the mussels with the Purging step given below.

I recommend it is best to cook and eat mussels the same day you purchase them.

Purchasing Mussels

Choose to buy mussels that are alive.

Pick mussels that have securely closed shells.

The shells of the mussels should be damp and shiny. They should smell like the ocean.

If you spot mussels with open shell, tap on its shell or try squeezing them a few times. The mussel should close in a few seconds. If the mussel closes the shell, it is still alive.

If the mussel does not close its shell, bypass it.

Do not pick out mussels that have broken, cracked or split shells.


Cleaning Mussels

Purging step for Wild Mussels.

Fill a shallow dish with cold water make sure not to fill it completely, you do not want the mussels to submerge completely. Add salt to water to mimic the sea water. Then add your mussels to the salt water. Add about 1/4 cup of flour.  Soak mussels for about an hour. Now you must be wondering why flour?  The flour helps to speed up its grits removal. While soaking, they breathe, filtering in the water and flour, and expelling any grit or sand.

NOTE: If you purchase rope-grown mussels, you can skip the purging step. They usually don’t have sand inside.

If you happen to spot any open shell mussels in your bowl, tap on it or try squeezing just like you do when you are purchasing the mussels. The mussel should slowly close itself back up. If it doesn’t, you’ve got a dead one on your hands. Toss it in the trash. Mussels that feel unusually heavy are probably filled with mud and should be tossed.

Rinse them under cold running water. Use a small, stiff brush and water to scrub the mussels’ shells to remove barnacles and stuck-on seaweed. If the barnacles are tough, you could use a knife to gentle scrap it off. Rinse each shell individually.

300px-clean-mussels-step-5-preview-version-3 rinsing-mussels1

Pull out the stringy beard. To de-beard each mussel, just pinch the beard with your thumb and index finder and use a side to side motion to firmly tug it out. You can also use a cloth to get a better grip of the beard and pull it down toward the hinge. Some of the mussels may have already had their beards removed, so don’t worry if not every mussel has a beard.


Extra Precaution

I steam the mussels for a few minutes (about 10-15 minutes) with half cup of water till they are open.


The ones that do not open should be tossed out.

A last rinse of the mussel is a good idea to remove any remaining sand or grits from the stomach.

Now you can prepare your mussels the way you like it.

You need to remember this important tip to be confident that you are consuming edible mussels: Mussels when buying should be closed (or should close when tapped on it) and should open up once they are cooked.largeopenmussels-20100806-193335

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Hi, I'm Doreen Ivy Fernandes, I love cooking and trying techniques to make cooking very easy, tasty and interesting. I would like my readers to use some of my easy ingredients and techniques to get inspired to cooking new and different cuisines which they normally would not try to cook. If you have any questions or comments and would like to contact me, you are always welcome to email me at

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