Home / Cooking Tips / How To Choose, Store, and Cook Live Mussels

How To Choose, Store, and Cook Live Mussels

Do you love ordering a bowl of steaming-hot mussels at a restaurant? 

Do you know mussels are super simple to make at home?

Don’t let mussels intimidate you — all they need is a quick scrub and steam. The best part is they tell you when they are done cooking!  They couldn’t be any simpler to cook at home.

They are extremely inexpensive and great for entertaining.  Mussels, beer, and cards — sounds like a perfect Friday night to me!

What To Look for When Choosing Live Mussels:

  • Choose mussels that smell and look appealing. Make sure there are no broken shells.
  • The shells should be tightly closed. However, if they’ve been chilling undisturbed, they may be slightly open. To make sure they are still alive, squeeze them shut between your fingers. If they stay closed, they are alive and well. If they open back up, they are dead — don’t choose them.

how to choose mussels

How To Store Live Mussels:

  • Live mussels are exactly that — alive.  When you get them home, it’s important to store them properly to keep them alive and fresh.
  • If you store them in an airtight container or bag, even in a bowl of water, they will suffocate or drowned.  They need to breathe.  Store them in the mesh bag they sometimes come in and cover with a damp towel or newspaper to keep them moist.  You can also dump them into a shallow container or bowl and cover with a damp towel or newspaper.
  • Mussels, stored properly, will last up to 1 week in the fridge.  Just remember to remoisten the damp towel daily to keep them hydrated.

how to cook live mussels

How To Clean Live Mussels:

  • Clean mussels just before you’re ready to cook them.
  • Mussels sometimes have a dark shaggy beard (this is what attaches the mussels to what ever it’s growing on).
  • The beard should only be removed just before cooking — removing the beard kills the mussel.  To remove the beard, simply pull it away from the shell.  I find it easier to grab the beard with a paper towel because I can get a better grip.
  • If they look dirty and gnarly, give them a good scrub under cold running water.  Cultivated mussels usually come cleaned and with smooth shells. Wild mussels will have pieces barnacles attached, these can be easily scraped off with a knife.

Here’s a video of me cleaning mussels on Best Recipes Ever:


How To Cook Live Mussels:

  • Mussels can be grilled, roasted, baked, or broiled — but my favourite is steamed.
  • Because mussels already contain liquid, they actually don’t need to be cooked with anything else.  Just place them in a pot, heat over medium-high, and cover. When the shells open, they are done!  However, cooking them in a flavourful sauce will only make them better — plus, dipping bread in the leftover sauce is the best part.

how to cook live mussels

How to tell When Mussels are Cooked:

  • The mussels will tell you when they are done cooking — it’s all about the shell.
  • The mussels’ shells will open as soon as they’re done cooking. If you keep cooking them past their shells opening, the mussel will become tough.
  • Discard any mussels that don’t open when cooked.

One of my favourite ways to cook mussels is in tomato sauce.  Try this recipe and fall in love!