How to Prepare Mussels

Many of us like mussels but eat them only in restaurants—we don’t know how to handle them at home. But it’s nothing to be afraid of.

First, know that mussels are alive (or should be) when you buy them. You want to keep them that way until you cook them, so store the mussels in a colander filled with ice. This keeps them cold and prevents them from sitting in water, which can kill them. When you’re ready to cook the mussels, discard the dead ones. The shells of live mussels should be tightly closed. If any are open, plunge the mussels into cold water. Live ones will close, but dead mussels won’t— they need to be pitched.

Now, remove the beard. It’s the fibrous thread outside of the shell that keeps the mussel anchored in the ocean. To remove these inedible beards, use your fingers or even pliers to pull the beard towards the small end of the shell. Scrub each shell well under cold water to remove mud and sand, and you’re ready to cook!