How to cook (steam) mussels

The 10 things you need to know

plus our favourite Moules Marinière recipe, with garlic, white wine and cream.

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how to cook mussels - 10 things you should know

About time the females get to shine brightly 😘
Did you know the bright tan /orange mussels are the females and the pale / cream ones are the males .

Some say ( mostly women;) the orange meat is more fleshy and 😋 tasty.


10 things you need to know about mussels


How many do you need per person

For a nice meal , we have about 600g each – half that would do as a starter.

We find that those netted bags at the fish counter are often about 750g each. So that would make a little less for 2 adults and a child, or make a nice little portion of seconds each if you´re cooking for two. The weight does vary depending on the type of mussel since up to 50% can be the shell weight.



How to choose the best ones to buy

Buy fresh, alive and closed. If they’re open and don’t snap closed for you when you press them then throw those dead ones away. Also avoid any with broken shells.


How to clean

Rinse them well. I went off mussels for a while as a child as I hated getting sand between my teeth. You only get this form wild mussels though and most ones you buy in the supermarket are farmed ones – still , rinse them really well !

Then clean the shells and remove the beard if they have one (they’ll be wild mussels then because farmed mussels usually have the beard removed) before cooking- just scrub the shell to remove them. 


how long they take to cook

We´re talking about the ones you find in the Atlantic & Pacific- The larger more black than blue ones. They only take about 5 minutes to cook/ steam.


how we cook Moules mariniere - RECIPE

 We´ve been referring to this old Rick Stein recipe for years – and this is pretty much it, with our scribbles. The only other recipe I have adored is a simple steamed with a lemon cut into quarter in the pan. So just follow the recipe below and use just a little water or wine with the lemon.

Extras you need for 2 people.

NB: You actually only about half of this but we cook more as love to have loads of sauce to mop up. Makes it a pretty filling meal then.
3-4 fl oz (100ml) white wine, 1/2oz (15g) butter, 2 shallots chopped finely, 1 clove garlic minced, 4 floz (120ml) cream,  handful of chopped parsley, & some bread ( as much as you want !) and possibly butter to serve.

We make a sauce base first with butter and garlic, chopped shallots or mild onions, and some light herbs ( a bouquet garni ). Cook to soften.

Add the wine and heat on high to boil. We use about 100ml white wine for about 1.2 kilo mussels for the two of us. (If adding cream to the sauce at the end – it’s 120ml again. ) 

Rick Stein makes this sauce with 1.75kg mussels. Ours are always really juicy but I think we should try a little less liquid next time to see if it makes any difference. DON´T ADD salt.

Then add the mussels the lid and turn the heat down to simmer them till they begin to open. Put the timer on for 5mins and try not to peak till then.


how to cook them evenly

Shake the pan a bit during cooking so they cook evenly. With the pan lid on they will steam cook and open their shells when ready.


how to finish them well

When each mussel is opened and cooked, remove it – tedious but worth it. Add parsley and cream to the sauce at the end.


how to get the best tasting juice

Don’t use too much liquid. The more you cook them in , the more diluted the real mussel juice will be. Also you shouldn´t need to season as the mussel liquid released will be salty too. 


how to preserve them

You can’t freeze them before cooking but you could freeze cooked mussels if you need to. You should use them the day you buy them but if they´re really fresh you can leave them in the fridge for a day or 2 maximum in a bowl with a damp cloth over them.


How to eat them

You don´t need any fancy tool. The best way actually is to hold an open shell between you thumb and first finger and pinch the mussel flesh out from any other open shell. Sometimes you will find some shells are still tighly closed – just discard those.

Don´t forget to serve with an empty bowl or saucepan nearby to put all those shells into.

The best bit is at the end, when you reveal the delicious juices ( creamy or not) and you can sup this up with a spoon, or dip some delicious bread (and butter) and enjoy.  

About those orange and white flesh colours !

Well apparently they’re sexually active from 1 yr… & apparently orange represents eggs & white, sperm.

Or, the white could be a very young mussel not yet sexually yet.

What do you think ? Let us know in the comments if you know any different. 

Paul & Aoibheann


p.s. want to find a use for the shells afterwards.

Save a set for individual condiment holders for a table setting – just put some nice flaked sea salt in so that your guests can each use their fingers in their own little bowl to sprinkle any extra salt on their meal.   If you get particularly pretty big ones, use it for soap or nightstand jewellery keeping.

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