How to Cook Mussels

  • 01 of 07

    Choose Fresh Mussels

    Mussels In a Bowl
    Steamed Mussels. Photo © Stuart Minzey/Getty Images

    Whether you want to steam, roast, or grill mussels, these shellfish are extremely forgiving and can be made into varied preparations. No matter how you choose to cook them, start with impeccably fresh and well-cleaned mussels.

    Most mussels for sale in the U.S. are farmed and come to the market fairly clean, but it's a good practice to give them a good rinse in cool water and a light scrubbing if they seem gritty, as well as to pull out any "beards" they might have. But in general, a fresh mussel is closed or closes when you tap on it; discard any open mussels. Fresh mussels should smell like the sea and not like fish, so anything less than breeze and brine shouldn't be consumed. 

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  • 02 of 07

    Steam the Mussels

    Mussels Steamed in a Serving Bowl
    Steamed Mussels With Chile & Garlic. Photo © Molly Watson

    The first and most commonly used method for cooking mussels is steaming. Some cooks simply pour a bottle of white wine and a few pounds of mussels into a pot and call it a day. Although easy and hassle-free, this method can be enhanced by a few aromatics and seasonings. Try Mussels Steamed In White Wine or Mussels Steamed With Garlic and Chiles.

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  • 03 of 07

    Pan-Roast the Mussels

    Mussels in Pan
    © 2011 Jessica Walker, licensed to About.com

    Pan-roasting mussels is a quick and easy method of cooking. Place the mussels in a hot cast iron or heavy bottom pan, then cook until they open; the high, dry heat concentrates the mussels' flavor in a most pleasing way. Season with black pepper or minced parsley, or just serve plain with wedges of lemon as a garnish. Try Pan-Roasted Mussels for a quick and filling meal. 

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  • 04 of 07

    Grill the Mussels

    Grilled Mussels. Photo © Molly Watson

    Place the mussels on top of a very hot grill and pull them out once their shells are opened. Plate in a big serving bowl, sprinkle with Kosher salt and pepper, and serve with lemon wedges. Check this Grilled Mussels recipe for details and try this Herb Seafood sauce as a side. 

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  • 05 of 07

    Make a Chowder

    Shellfish Chowder
    Shellfish Chowder. Photo © Molly Watson

    For a creamy addition to your savory favorites, a delicious Shellfish Chowder can be made with a combination of shellfish or turned into mussel chowder by only using mussels. It's a very simple, if wonderfully rich, chowder recipe that works very well as a small first course to a larger dinner. To turn it more into a meal on its own, add some peeled and chopped potatoes to the mix. Serve with fresh crusty bread. 

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  • 06 of 07

    Serve Mussels Cold

    Cold Mussels
    Mussels With Corn Tomato Salsa. Photo © Molly Watson

    Cold mussels aren't that common in the U.S., but that's a very tasty way to enjoy them and a method of serving mussels that allows the cook to prepare them ahead of time. Simply steam the mussels, allow them to cool, and top them with a cold dressing. 

    A simple relish of shallots, vinegar, and fresh herbs like parsley and thyme is a classic option. A salsa of tomatoes and corn adds a spicy kick. They are remarkably tasty as long as the mussels are cooked, cooled, and served on the same day. 

    Although not standard, but safe, mussels can be served raw on the half-shell just like oysters. Raw mussels benefit from a dab of strongly flavored sauce, citrus-based vinaigrettes, herbs like parsley, cilantro, and dill, or extra virgin olive oil. 

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  • 07 of 07

    Famous Moules Frites

    Steamed Mussels and French Fries
    Moules Frites. Photo © P. Eoche/Getty Images

    Moules Fritessteamed mussels with French fries—are a Belgian favorite, and beloved throughout France as well. A loaf of fresh, crusty bread is an equally fine accompaniment since pieces of it can be used to sop up the remarkably savory and delicious steaming liquid.

    Since the best French fries are fried twice, once to cook them and once to crisp them, and cooled in between, we suggest to do the first fry on the French fries, heat up the pot for the mussels while cooling off the fries, and then frying the potatoes for the second time while you cook the mussels, so all of the food goes to the table at the same time.