Cleaning Mussels Article -
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How to Clean Mussels

A step-by-step guide for cleaning and debearding mussels.

1. When you purchase your mussels, make sure to immediately unwrap them at home so they can breathe.

Discard any mussel that is chipped, broken, or damaged in any way. Also, discard any mussel that is open. The mussels should be tightly closed and stored in a cool area where they can breathe.

2. Just before cooking, soak your mussels in fresh water for about 20 minutes. As the mussels breathe, they filter water and expel sand. After about 20 minutes, the mussels will have less salt and sand stored inside their shells.

    3. Most mussels have what is commonly called a "beard," also known as byssal threads. The beard is made of many fibers which emerge from the mussel's shell.

      4. To remove the beard, hold the mussel in one hand, cover the other hand with a dry towel, and grasp the beard; give it a sharp yank toward the hinge end of the mussel. This method will not kill the mussel. If you were to pull the beard out towards the opening end of the mussel you can tear the mussel, killing it. Discard the byssal threads.

        5. Remove the mussels from the water. Don't pour the mussels and water into a strainer because the sand has sunk to the bottom of the bowl; you'd end up pouring the sand back on top of the mussels. Put the mussels in another bowl of clean, cold water

          6. Use a firm brush to brush off any additional sand, barnacles, or other oceanic attachments. Rinse the mussels under cool tap water, and set aside. Dry with a towel before cooking.

          Nov. 30, 2009 5:24 pm
          I'm trying to get the courage to make my own mussels and this has helped a lot, although I still doubt my ability to debeard a mussel I'm thinking about giving it a shot!
          Feb. 26, 2010 3:19 pm
          I learned so much i never knew what the beard was. cool learned something also. This is my first time cooking mussels and i was unaware of the cleaning process. Thanks for the descriptive process in how to clean.
          Apr. 28, 2010 6:45 pm
          Very helpful - a grateful home amateur...
          May 27, 2010 5:47 am
          We need some advice. We love mussels. Recently we bought 3KG of fresh mussels from a shellfish specialist on the west coast of Ireland. The mussels were plump, clean, and odorless. No broken or open shells. We cooked them quickly in some wine, a bit of unsalted butter, and leeks. However, the mussels were salty to the point of being inedible. We ate what we could and threw the rest away. The pasta that we cooked in the mussel water was also inedibly salty. This has never happened to us before. We were very disappointed. Did we do something wrong? Were the mussels improperly cleaned by the dealer? Is it the luck of the draw? I hope somebody on this page can help us. Thanks, Davy
          Jun. 4, 2010 9:00 am
          Davy, It is "rare" for a dealer to clean mussels. I have a feeling you recieved mussels "as-is" and because you did not clean, let stand etc...they were salty. It is possible however, that they soaked them in salt water. next time...ask if they have been soaked, cleaned, and bearded.
          Jun. 6, 2010 4:52 pm
          We purchased 2 lbs of wild cought mussels from Maine - right now they are soaking in lightly salted water because after a few minutes in fresh water some began to open and would not close again after the "tap test". The majority of articles I have found reccomend salt water, being that these are salt water animals. Can anyone clarify? Thanks!
          Lucille Berlan 
          Aug. 20, 2010 2:03 pm
          After washing them in clean fresh water I put them in corn meal. They spit out the sand. Some of the corn meal is left inside but it tasts great. I steam them in chicken broth, white wine, scallions, tomatoes and of course garlic. Delish
          Aug. 31, 2010 4:25 pm
          After soaking the mussels, some float and some fall to the bottom of the bowl that I am soaking them in. ???
          Sep. 10, 2010 5:57 am
          We live on a body of water that has been infiltrated with Zebra mussels(freshwater). Are they edible? If yes, any good cleaning/cooking hints out there? Thanks in advance.
          Nov. 8, 2010 10:25 am
          We went to a Chinese resaurant that served musseles on their bar. Back at the table they each had a little tuft of green seaweed attached to them. I was wondering if that was the beard?
          Nov. 29, 2010 12:09 pm
          @annalee I would stear clear of putting those in your bot.
          Dec. 5, 2010 5:40 pm
          to help get rid of sand add some corn meal to the water of the first soak. makes them spit more.
          Mar. 18, 2011 2:21 pm
          Is it okay to soak them longer than 20 minutes - like an hour or two?
          Apr. 6, 2011 11:43 am
          have read fresh water will kill them-could some one clarify what is best to soak these guys in-salt; fresh;or lightly salted fresh water? thanks.
          Sep. 14, 2011 2:23 pm
          I live in land locked Colorado, so I just purchased some frozen mussels. Can I assume that the frozen ones were cleaned and debearded? Are they already cooked?
          Oct. 19, 2011 9:15 am
          I just moved to the Oregon coast a few months ago and have collected mussels right off the rocks a few times now. They are delicious, though the ones here tend to be laden with barnacles so it's quite a chore to clean them. Thanks for the cornmeal tip! I can't wait to try that. I have noticed that mine have had a bit of grit in them.
          Nov. 3, 2011 1:03 pm
          I actually don't think the barnacles will hurt you. Goose Barnacles (the one's on long skinny necks) are considered a delicacy in some parts of the world. I'm sure you can leave them on and they make a good conversation piece for guests!
          Nov. 15, 2011 9:29 am
          Once mussels are cooked, can the cooked mussels be frozen?
          Mar. 16, 2012 3:29 pm
          I just bought mussels for the first time and did what I saw on TV soaked them in cold tap water with 1/4 cup flour. This should help get the sand out I thought? Well, after just a few minutes they started opening. What went wrong? Is flour wrong? Some things I have read say do not soak at all just scrub. So the ones that opened could I cook right away or through away? And what about the ones that did not open, do you think they are OK..... HELP.... I DON'T WANT TO GIVE MY FAMILY FOOD POISONING TONIGHT!!!
          Aug. 25, 2012 12:15 am
          OK, I guess most people simply don't know how to properly clean mussels. All tend to think mussels is some kind of fruit picked from sea and all that need to be done is clean the shell!!! ?just like all animals Mussels also have intestine and bowels, In our culture we clean mussels, keeping mussels in hot water. This will cause the shells to be opened. Then take the meat off the shell and discard the shells. One side of this 'meat' has a very dark spot and with a knife make a cut and nicely clean the intestine and the black excreta materials. Then wash them nicely in clean water so that all excreta material is washed away. Then you may cook the meat whatever way you want. I just don't feel its good to eat mussels or clams with the intestine and other waste materials still attached to their body.
          Jan. 2, 2013 4:26 pm
          I also have Salty Mussels, I picked them myself. The ones I buy are not this salty. I think it’s the shells not the mussels. Moules M. is a no go. Using them in a Thai Broth, Gordon Ramsays Mussel Pilau is a real winner. Tomorrow I steam open and grill some, with Parmesan, breadcrumb, lemon zest, and parsley. Purging, not always needed, shop bought UK, gone through U.V. light and purged already. Foraged, I remove barnacles and beards. Good scrub, Purge those for 6-8hrs or overnight it’s OK to do this twice or more. I have had mussels last 7 days out of the water. What shellfish like is oxygen; a running tap gives this to the water. Occasionally shake the water if you can. The water must be salty, nowhere near as much as some people say. I use Oatmeal, only a scant amount, sprinkled over the top from a height. This passes through the mussel. Mussels that open before cooking are usually dead. Some close when prompted. My foraged mussels are always really snap tight, that shows how fresh
          Jan. 3, 2013 2:46 pm
          Today’s recipe proved it’s the shells that are salty. The recipe was a real winner, I would use larger shop bought mussels as a preference next time. Also cooked Clams Garlic Tomato from Hugh Fearnley Whitingstalls Three Good Things Book. Less is more! This was a real winner, used cockles instead of clams.
          Jan. 3, 2013 2:53 pm
          Farmed Mussels UK. are actualy wild. They are put through a 36hr purging process that includes U.V. light killing harmfulll bacteria. Months with an R, definatly for foraged mussels, colder water,of November, forget July.
          Apr. 14, 2013 6:46 pm
          My mussels were frozen when I put them in cold water to scrub. Almost all of them opened up. Can one still use them.
          Jul. 4, 2013 7:29 am
          No. As far as I know, if they are open they are dead and you don't know for how long. Seafood spoils very quick, hence "fish smell".
          Jan. 30, 2014 6:49 am
          Thank you much for the instructions. I did not know that I needed to unwrap them so they can breath. I will follow this procedure and hope they come out great since this is my first time cooking them. Thanks.
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