Grilling may be the very easiest way to cook mussels (and it's not as if steaming them is all that tricky!). It's a crowd-pleasing way to make the most of grilling season. Depending on how many people you're trying to feed and how many mussels you have on hand, you may need to cook them in batches; an average kettle-style grill can hold about 3 pounds of mussels at a time.
Since mussels are so tasty right off the grill, your guests may want to simply stand around the barbecue and eat the mussels right as they come off the flame. Just be warned: those shells are HOT!
- 1/2 pound mussels (per person; for an appetizer)
- Optional: freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
- Optional: flat-leaf parsley (minced, to taste)
Gather the ingredients.
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–the shells will protect the mussels more than other foods, but it's still a good habit to get into–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, so they don't have highly developed beards; however, wild mussels may have hairy growths 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; others prefer mussels grilled 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 grinds of fresh 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 as hot off the grill as you can manage! The hotter and fresher, the better.
- If you would like to make this recipe for the main course, change the amount of mussels to 2 pounds per person.
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.