How to cook mussels including a guide to preparing, cooking and refrigerating mussels.

how to make mussels

Many people love to order mussels as a starter or even a main meal when dining out in a restaurant, yet they wouldn't have a clue how to cook them at home.

However, cooking mussels is so simple that once you know how, you will wonder why you hadn't learnt sooner.
Probably the most popular mussel dish is "moules marinieres", a classic French recipe using wine, garlic, shallots, parsley and butter. This dish is easy to make, and tastes divine.

In the above dish, the mussels are gently steamed until they open. This is the usual method of cooking mussels, although mussels can be steamed to open them and then finished cooking by using a different method, according to recipe instructions.

As well as steaming, mussels can be baked, grilled, pan-fried or deep-fried. As long as they are cooked, they can also be added to salads, pasta dishes, stir fries, sauces, soups or stews.

Mussels need only a few minutes cooking, so therefore when adding them to other recipes, they should be added at the last moment, in order to prevent over-cooking.

Over cooked mussels are quite tasteless, rubbery and a bit of a let down.

Preparing mussels before cooking

Mussels must be thoroughly cleaned and rinsed several times before cooking.

Wild mussels will need to be scrubbed with a stiff brush to remove any barnacles, sand or grit and their beard must also be removed. This can be done by giving the beard a forceful tug with your fingers and pulling it away or by cutting it off with a small and sharp knife.

Rinse the wild mussels several times but do not let them sit in water, as freshwater will kill them.

Farmed mussels will have already been prepared for cooking and it will suffice to just give them a quick rinse under a running tap of cold water.

To steam mussels

Once the mussels have been thoroughly cleaned, remove and discard any shells that are open or broken and that do not close when tapped.

Mussels only need to be steamed in a tiny amount of liquid, due to the fact that when they open up during cooking, they release their own liquid, which makes a tasty broth or sauce. If there is too much liquid, the flavour of the mussels' own liquid will be diluted and completely lost. Take care when seasoning the broth, as the liquid from the mussels is quite salty and does not need too much more salt.

Mussels can be steamed in any liquid but most cooks use white wine, water or both. Once the mussels are cooked, they can be served immediately or the meat can be removed and then added to another dish when needed.

A pound (lb) (450 g) of mussels is usually enough for one person.
  1. Pour 1 or 2 cups of white wine or water into a large saucepan, add the mussels and cover the pan. Remember that not a lot of liquid is needed.
  2. Cook on a high heat and bring the liquid to the boil.
  3. When steam is released from the sides of the pan, reduce the heat and simmer the mussels until they begin to open. This should take about 5 minutes. During cooking, shake the bottom of the pan, so that the mussels are redistributed and cook evenly.
  4. After several minutes, keep an eye on the mussels and try to remove each mussel as it opens. This can be a tedious task but will be well worth it, as each mussel will be cooked just right.
  5. When all the mussels have opened, they can be served in their shell, in a bowl, with the broth strained and then poured over them. Discard any mussels that have not opened.

To bake or grill mussels

  1. Firstly, steam the mussels as above in order to open the shells.
  2. Disregard any mussels that do not open.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) or the grill to a medium to high heat.
  4. Remove the empty shell of the mussel and place the shells containing the meat on a baking tray side by side.
  5. Drizzle a little olive oil over the mussels, sprinkle them with salt, pepper, crushed garlic and parsley and then top them with dry breadcrumbs.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 7 - 10 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are a golden brown colour. If using the grill, the cooking time may be less.

Refrigerating cooked mussels

Cooked mussels should be refrigerated as soon as possible after cooking if you are not going to eat them straightaway.

Remove the shells and place the mussels in an airtight container or a bowl and cover them with their own liquid or broth. This will help to keep them moist and retain the flavour.

Cover the bowl or container securely with a lid and place in the fridge. Refrigerated mussels should really be eaten within 1 - 2 days.

Freezing cooked mussels

Mussels can be frozen and stored in the freezer department for up to 3 months. However, only cooked mussels should be frozen.

Remove and discard the shells, place the cooked mussels into an airtight container or freezer bag, add the mussel broth and seal tightly.

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