Ingredient Spotlight | Mussels

Mussels are an excellent choice when considering shellfish. Why? Because they are inexpensive, easy to make and healthy. Who doesn’t love a ridiculous tasty meal that is good for you and low in fat and calories? Mussels are a super food, packed with nutrients that many don’t know about. One of the health benefits of eating mussels is having a healthier heart. The shellfish’s low saturated fat and high omega-3 fatty acids content helps lower the risk of heart attacks and heart disease. Mussels are also rich in protein and Vitamin B12, which are dietary essentials. In fact, each 1-cup serving of mussels contains about 18 grams of protein, which is about 30% of the daily intake.

If you love mussels but are intimidated to cook them yourself, don’t be. Mussels are really simple to prepare, and there are several ways to enjoy them.

Here are some tips on cooking mussels to make sure your dish comes out as delicious as possible:

  1. Store mussels properly. Put them in a bowl and cover loosely with a damp towel. Keep them in the refrigerator, and cook within two days.
  2. Make sure they’re alive. When ready to cook, you’ll want to make sure the mussels are alive and well. Most should still be closed tightly, but for any that are open, give them a tap. If they close, they’re good to go. If they don’t react, throw them out. Also discard any with cracked shells.
  3. Clean thoroughly. If you purchased wild mussels as opposed to cultivated ones, soak them in cold water for 20 minutes and drain. For either type, remove the “beards” by pulling them towards the hinged end of the shell with your thumb and forefinger. Then, scrub the mussels under cold, running water.
  4. Steam them. Steaming mussels is the most popular method of cooking the bivalves. Because they already contain some liquid, you don’t need to add much more. Just add enough liquid of your choice (broth, wine, etc.) to cover the bottom of the hot pot, and then add the mussels. Cover the pot with a lid for about five to seven minutes. When the mussels are open, they’re ready to eat!

Check out our Mussels with Horseradish, Aioli, and Grilled Bread recipe for an interesting take on the popular shellfish!


Also Did You Know…

  • Mussels have been a primary source of food for over 20,000 years.
  • Some mussels can live for up to 50 years!
  • The “beard” of the mussel is called the byssus. Its purpose is to attach the mussel to a solid surface.
  • Male mussels have white or cream-colored meat, while the meat of female mussels has more of an orange hue.
  • This mollusk is largest and fleshiest in October and smallest in March.
  • Watch out! Mussels do contain sodium and cholesterol. This slightly lowers their nutritional value, so as always, eat in moderation.