Mussels are a delicious seafood option when you want a quick-cooking feast for your family, but they can look intimidating to tackle with their hard outer shells. Once you learn how to cook mussels the correct way, plus how to buy and clean these bivalves, you'll be adding this tasty, brothy dinner to your rotation. Looking for a super-fast weeknight dinner or an easy appetizer for your family? Search no further: This one pot meal, full of garlicky broth, is ready in 20 minutes. Here, the easiest steps to get dinner on the table fast:
How do I choose mussels?
Mussels are alive and should be when you cook them. Once they die, they turn bad very quickly. So look for mussels that are sold on ice. They should have shiny shells and appear wet. They should smell briny like the ocean. Figure on about half pound of mussels per person for a dinner portion. If you plan on using them as a starter you can figure on about quarter pound per person.
What's the best way to clean mussels?
So now you've bought them, you're probably wondering, how do I clean mussels before cooking? It's super simple. Place the mussels in a colander. Under cold running water, scrub off any sand, barnacles, mud, or seaweed. Discard any mussels with cracked shells.
Give them a tap. Because mussels are alive and should be when you cook them, their shells should be closed (this is how you know they're still living!). If there are any open mussels in your bunch, tap them lightly, and they should close up. If they don’t, throw those away. Also, scrape the beards. Mussels have tiny membranes called “beards” that they use to attach themselves to hard surfaces in the ocean. They aren't pleasant to eat (they can be sandy and grainy), so it's important to remove before cooking and eating. To de-beard: grab the membrane between your thumb and forefinger and pull downward towards the hinged-end of the shell (use a paper towel to help grasp, if needed).
How should I store fresh mussels?
It is best to purchase mussels the same day you plan on cooking them. But if plans change, place them in a bowl, cover with a damp towel and refrigerate them for a day or two max. They need to breathe, so resist the urge to put them in an airtight container or in water.
Do I need to soak mussels?
Most mussels available in the stores now are farmed, but if you happen to pick up a bag of wild mussels, make sure to give them a soak in cold water for 20 minutes and then drain before cooking to remove any sand and grit inside the shellfish.
How long does it take to cook mussels?
Once they are cleaned and de-bearded, they are ready to get cooked and eaten. How long does it take to actually cook mussels? Once they are in, they only take 3 to 4 minutes. How do you know when they are done? They are done when their shells are open. Any mussels that aren’t open should be tossed (it’s an indication that they might not have been alive when they were added to the pot).
Now you know how to cook and clean mussels, try these classic white wine mussels or one of our tasty variations. For us, it is all about the sauce, so make sure to have some toasty, crispy bread on hand for dunking.
Musells with white wine
TOTAL TIME:0 hours 20 mins
2 tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 c. dry white wine
4 lb. mussels, scrubbed and beards removed
3 tbsp. cold unsalted butter
1/4 c. flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Crusty bread and lemon wedges, for serving
Heat oil with garlic and red pepper flakes in large Dutch oven on medium-low until beginning to turn golden brown, 4 minutes. Add wine and bring to a boil on medium-high, then boil 2 minutes.
Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, then mussels, and cook, covered, stirring once or twice, until shells open, 6 minutes. Uncover, add cold butter, and cook 2 minutes, stirring. Toss with parsley and serve with crusty bread and lemon wedges if desired.
For flavor variations below, follow above directions sauteing seeds, veggies, or meat with garlic, then stir in the remaining ingredients along with the wine.