Out of over a million of these aquatic animals, we will discuss one of the most nutritious seafood: Mussels. Mussels are marine bivalve mollusks that are sold fresh, with their shells tightly closed. Mussels have creamy tan meat that is a lot tougher than that of oysters.
This exquisite, delicious, protein-rich food has low calories from fat and is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Mussels have an impressive nutritional profile with lots of health benefits which makes them superstar seafood.
Yet, not everyone knows how to cook mussels until they are well done enough for consumption. Some people assume mussels are difficult to cook because of their double external shell. However, through this article, you will find pro tips on how to cook them properly.
Consider this article a guide for when next you cook, buy and store mussels.
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Tips for Cooking Perfectly Tender Mussels
Steaming, grilling, and baking are the most popular ways of cooking mussels but how do you apply these techniques to make them perfectly tender, let’s find out…
Clean Mussels Thoroughly:
Yes, the first step to any meal preparation after purchase is washing. Wash your hands and the item. This is important as most fresh seafood is exposed to microorganisms and dirt.
Ensure to remove debris by scrubbing live mussels under running water using a food brush. Also make sure that while scrubbing the shells individually, they are free of cracks and tightly clenched.
In cases where you notice that the shell is loose, tap it gently on the counter. The mollusk is expected to react by shutting its shell. However, if there’s no reaction, you’ll need to dispose of it because it is dead and could be spoiled.
Do you know that mussels have beards? Well, they do and you have to clean and pull them out.
To do this, you’ll need to use your fingers to tug out the beards that are visible and between the shells. This should be done by holding them right between your fingers. Further wriggle or twist it back and forth while pulling it out.
Use Your Widest Pot:
Mussels require steam to cook. To ensure a well-regulated heat contact, use your widest pot or pressure cooker and add liquid to the same. It is crucial to ensure there is enough liquid to cover the base of your pot but not submerge the mussels. With this, remember, you’re steaming the mussels, not boiling them.
Depending on the recipe you are using, you can add your ingredients to the pot and let them cook. Using white wine or beer as the liquid instead of water instead of water is one way to go, but this depends entirely on the recipe.
You can also shake the pot now and then to redistribute the layers. However, if you choose to use the grilling method, you’ll need to carefully spread the mussels over the surface of the grill or put them in a wide pan.
Ensure that the pot is tightly covered to produce steam which is needed in cooking the mussels.
Do Not Overcook Mussels:
Yes! You read that right. Even with the shells you need not overcook mussels. Make sure to cook mussels until they are just done. How do you know when they are cooked? Well, the shells open while you’re cooking or grilling them.
You may be wondering what overcooking does to mussels. Simply put, over-cooking mussels will leave you with tough and tasteless meat.
Watch Out for the Shells:
Once the shells are open, take them off the heat. Keep in mind that all the shells may not,
may not open at once. However, you can proceed to remove opened mussels using a slotted spoon, while others continue cooking.
You can check the pot every 3 minutes for open mussels. When doing this, take every open mussel out once you spot them so they don’t overcook. If you don’t find any open mussels, check again after a minute.
If you’re grilling mussels, it is a lot easier to check for the properly cooked ones. To do this, just lift the top of the grill and check every 3 minutes.
For baked mussel meals, you can steam the mussels first. This process can be quite risky because you need to avoid overcooking your mussel. In this case, you’ll need to ensure that the recipe you are using doesn’t require them to be cooked for a long time. When it comes to baking mussels, 5 minutes is typically more than enough time.
Dispose of Mussels That Do Not Open:
Dead mussels are often characterized by their inability to react or open upon cooking. It is advised to discard them because they could have been dead long before you got them in your pot.
Tips on Purchasing and Storing Mussels
- Ensure that you buy them at a good fresh seafood market or online through a trusted vendor.
- Do not purchase mussels with loose shells. For the best quality, make sure you buy mussels with tight shells or those that tap shut when tapped.
- Select smaller mussels because they are a lot easier to cook and are more tender compared to bigger ones.
- For storage, cover the mussels with a moist cloth and place them in an open container before putting them in the refrigerator. However, you’ll need to make sure you cook them within 48 hours.
Be a Pro at Cooking Mussels
Mussels are not as difficult to cook as their shells make them seem. They are in fact a couple of minutes away from being overcooked if not monitored well.
Take the bold step of cooking and enjoy the health benefits. Making perfectly cooked or prepared mussels make you want to have them every day.
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