Cooking and Handling Mussels

Steaming mussels is one of the most popular ways to cook mussels, since it enhances the mussels’ natural flavors without overcooking.
You will need the following equipment to steam mussels:

• A pot large enough to hold the mussels and your other ingredients, leaving enough room for steam to circulate.
• Knife
• Vegetable brush (for cleaning the mussels)
• Broth ingredients (whatever your recipe calls for, including a liquid)

• Soak the mussels. Soak the mussels in cold water for at least 20 minutes before cooking them. This helps keep the mussels fresh and rinses off any sand.
• Prepare the pot. Add enough liquid to completely cover the bottom of the pot without submerging the mussels. (You want to steam them, not boil them.) Depending on your recipe, you can use water, white wine, or even beer.
• Clean the mussels. Use a vegetable brush to scrub each mussel under a stream of water. Use the knife to give the mussel a “debearding” by removing any fibrous tissue emerging from the shell (the mussel’s “beard”). If you need a few more minutes before cooking the mussels, put them on ice until you’re ready.
• Cook the mussels. Add the mussels (and any other ingredients) to the pot and give it a good toss to mix the ingredients. Cover and cook on medium-high heat to steam the mussels.

Cooking times vary by portion. It’s easy to tell when the mussels are cooked: when the mussels are finished cooking, their shells open. So, keep an eye on the mussels, remove them from heat when their shells open, and use the following as a guide for cooking times:
• 1-lb to 2-lbs: Steam 4-5 minutes
• 2-lbs to 5-lbs: Steam 5-6 minutes
• 5-lbs to 10-lbs: Steam 6-8 minutes
• 10-lbs and more: Steam 8-10 minutes

Buy about ½ pound of mussels per person if you're using them as an appetizer, or about 1 ¼ pound per person if you're preparing mussels as a main dish.

Mussels begin to deteriorate once they are out of the water. Store fresh shellfish in an open container (no liquid) covered with a damp cloth. This will retain moisture without killing the mussels. You can store the mussels for up to four days.

An open shell that won’t close signals a dead mussel. Do not consume mussels with broken shells or shells that won’t close when you tap them.