Grilling mussels may be the very easiest way to cook them (and that's saying something—it's not as if steaming mussels is all that tricky!). Grilling mussels are seriously just as easy as throwing clean mussels on a hot grill. How many mussels you want to grill is up to you—see below for guidelines. Depending on how many people you're trying to feed and thus how many mussels you have on hand, you may need to grill in batches, in which case you'll want to know that an average kettle-style grill can hold about 3 pounds of mussels at a time.
Since mussels are so tasty right off the grill, it can be quite fun to simply stand around the grill and eat the mussels right there, as they come off the flame. Just be warned: those shells are HOT!
Too cold to grill? No outdoor space? See more delicious ways to cook mussels.
- About 1/2 pound mussels per person for an appetizer; 2 pounds per person for the main course
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste (optional)
- Flat-leaf parsley, minced to taste (optional)
- Heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high to high heat (you should be able to hold your hand about an inch over the cooking grate for 2 to 3 seconds before pulling it away from the heat). Make sure the cooking grate is relatively clean (it's less important, thanks to the shells than it is for other grilled items) and have it over the heat so it gets nice and hot.
- While the grill heats, pick over the mussels. Mussels should be alive when you cook them – throw away any mussels that don't close tightly when you tap on them. Most mussels sold at fishmongers are farmed (farmed shellfish are a wonderfully sustainable choice!), so they don't have highly developed beards; wild mussels, however, may have hairy growths, which they used to anchor themselves, that need to be pulled out with pliers.
- Put the cleaned mussels on the grill and cook (covered on a gas grill) at least until they open, 5 to 10 minutes. Some people like their mussels just barely cooked, still soft and tender; other people prefer grilled mussels cooked until they're almost smoked with the flesh condensed and almost crispy on the edges. Taste different levels of done-ness and decide for yourself!
- Use tongs to transfer the hot mussels to a servings platter. While grilled mussels are dandy just as they are, a few grindings of freshly ground black pepper over them as you take them off the grill doesn't hurt anything—and neither does some minced parsley. Toss one or both over the open mussels once you transfer them to a serving platter.
Serve the mussels hot, as right off the grill as you can manage! Seriously, the hotter and fresher, the better.
Want to dress them up a bit? A few ideas:
- Make a melted garlic-butter sauce with 4 ounces butter and 1 or 2 cloves minced garlic—heat them up in a small saucepan and drizzle over the mussels before serving.
- Spice them up with a drizzle of hot chili oil right off the grill.
- Keep everything fresh with a spritz of lemon juice.
- Parsley is a classic herb with mussels, but roughly chopped dill or cilantro can be mighty tasty, too.