How can I Cook Mussels?

Sheri Cyprus

Mussels can be cooked in many different ways, but the most common method is steaming — either as a single method, or used to pre-cook them before using another cooking method. The shiny, black, oval-shaped bivalve mollusks open during the steaming process. Besides being steamed, mussels are often fried, grilled and baked.

Parsley can be used to season a mussel dish.
Parsley can be used to season a mussel dish.

No matter what cooking method you will be using, always buy mussels from a reliable source in an uncontaminated area. Interestingly, those with flesh more on the white side are usually females and mollusks with flesh that tends to be more of an orange color are often males. Both are basically the same, flavorwise, with the juice of both being the most flavorful part. Mussels should be rinsed several times to remove sand before steaming and the "beard" protuberance should be taken off.

Mussels may be cooked in many different ways.
Mussels may be cooked in many different ways.

Steamed mussels can be made by adding the prepared mollusks to a few cups of liquid brought to a steaming boil in a large pot or Dutch oven. After the mussels are added, they should be steamed for about eight minutes over medium heat. If possible, they should be turned carefully after four or five minutes of cooking. Mussels should never be overcooked as they can become tough. Once the shells steam open, they are done and any with unopened shells should not be used.

Mussels can be coated in fine bread crumbs and pan-fried, or even deep fried. They can also be baked in the oven on the half shell and sprinkled with olive oil and herbs. Mussels only take about five minutes on an outdoor grill over medium to high heat. They are delicious in soups, but are best added right near the end of cooking time to avoid overcooking.

These mollusks can be substituted for clams in dishes such as linguine with clam sauce, and some recipes call for both. Mexican-style salads sometimes use mussels and they add a distinctive look to the Spanish dish paella. Southeast Asian cuisine often uses coconut and ginger in mussel dishes. The classic French dish, moules mariniers, blends butter, wine, onions, salt, pepper and parsley with them. A baguette is used to absorb the juice.

Many different types of sauces can be used to dress cooked mussels. A French roux can serve as a sauce base as can teriyaki or tomato sauce. The general guideline commonly used when buying them is to allow 1 lb (450 g) in the shell per person for a main dish and 0.5 lb (225 g) per person for a side dish or appetizer.

Steamed mussels are eaten and enjoyed by many people around the world.
Steamed mussels are eaten and enjoyed by many people around the world.

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Discussion Comments


Yes, this dish sounds great! Does the Belgian way of eating mussels include having mayonnaise with the fries?


Mussels, a must in Belgium ...

The basic receipe to cook mussels :

Ingredients :

- 1 lb of mussels

- 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon (not

heaped) of butter,

- 1 medium onion, peeled and cut into four quarters,

- half of the leaves of 1 celery stalk (when buying,

look for firm stalks and very green leaves with

no wilting),

- 5 twigs of fresh parsley,

- 2 twigs of fresh thyme,

- 1 small bay leaf,

- fresh ground white pepper (but NO salt, because

mussels grow in sea water).

Preparation :

1. Discard the mussels that have remained open

after the cleaning process.

2. In a large casserole, melt together the olive oil

and the butter.

3. Stir in the quartered onion and cook over a low

heat for about 3 minutes until soft and


4. Add the thyme, the bay leaf, the mussels, the

pepper, put the parsley on top and turn up to

high heat. Cover with the lid of the casserole

and cook from 3 to 5 minutes. During the cooking,

hold the lid firmly in place while you shake the

casserole once or twice to make sure that the

mussels cook evenly.

5. Serve with French fries and a glass of dry white


In Belgian restaurants, your mussels will be served in the casserole that they have been cooked in.

A tip : Like Belgian people, ask for a spoon to eat the juices in the bottom... deliciously yummy.

Bon appétit

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