Preparing Mussels for Cooking
Written by Lee Wyatt (last updated January 18, 2021)
Have you ever wanted to have some nice mussels for dinner, but been too afraid to make them? Well, if so you can now stop worrying. The key to really enjoying yourself is in preparation. Preparing mussels for cooking is actually an extremely easy thing to do, and only requires a little bit of effort on your part. In fact, a person who is preparing mussels really needs to do is pay a little bit of attention, and be willing to spend some time. Pay attention to the little things, and actually be willing to let the mussels sit for a while before you touch them. Here are some guidelines that you can follow to ensure that you are preparing mussels properly for cooking.
- The fresher the better. Mussels should always be prepared and cooked the same day that you purchase them. This lessens the chances that they will die before you have the opportunity to prepare them for cooking. If they do die before preparation, then you will need to throw them out, because you will be unable to properly clean them. Raw mussels should have a shiny appearance, and never be broken. If they smell of anything else than an ocean, they are no good and should be disposed of.
- Soaking. When you get home with your mussels, put them into a large bowl or pot of cold, clean, fresh water. Allow the mussels to sit for minimum of twenty minutes before you do anything else, but if you have the time allow them to sit in the water for at least an hour. This is because mussels don't exactly like tap water, and typically close up. You need to allow them to begin processing the water, which will help remove the sand and grit that is inside the shells.
- Bearding. During the soaking process, you will see something that looks like a "beard" emerge from the shells. This beard is actually made from byssal threads, and they need to be removed before cooking. Simply pick up one of the mussels, and use a dry towel to grab hold of the beard and yank sharply towards the hinge of the mussel. This will not kill the mussel, but will remove the beard. Through the beard away, you do not need it.
- Cleaning. Use a soft brush, and clean the mussel's shell. Remove any dirt, sand, or barnacles that may still be on the shells. While you are cleaning the shells, take a look at them. Look for any cracks, or broken shells. If you find any, discard the mussel. If any of the mussels are open while you are cleaning them, give them a sharp rap on the shell. Be careful that you do not break the shell, but this should make the mussel close up. If it doesn't, then discard the mussel since it is dead already.
- Dry. With a clean towel, dry off the mussel before you cook it. This will help ensure that you have no more dirt and debris left on the shell.