Post was Updated on August 26, 2022
So you bought a package of mussels and you just noticed that they started to open? Are these mussels safe to cook and eat? Should you throw them away? Or you can eat them safely. Let’s find out!
What Does It Mean if Mussels Have Opened?
If you notice that the mussels are open before cooking, this is a sign that they have died. To avoid risks, it is recommended not to eat dead, opened mussels as you don’t know how fresh they are and in what conditions they were stored.
Do You Have to Throw Open Mussels Away?
Don’t be in a hurry to throw away the shells that have been opened. They may still be alive. Try to touch lightly the opened mussels. If you see that the mussels close quickly, that means that the mussels are alive and safe to eat. In this case, they are absolutely perfect for cooking.
If the mussels didn’t close when you touched them, this means that they are already dead, and in order to avoid any risks, it is not recommended to eat them as you don’t know when they died.
The mussels and seafood, in general, may go bad very quickly. Because of that, it is recommended to eat only high-quality seafood.
If the mussels are fully open, this is already a sign that it is no longer alive and can be dangerous for your health.
On the other hand, if it is only open a little, when you start washing it, it will close then you can safely eat these mussels.
Can You Eat Opened Mussels?
If the mussels were opened before you cooked them, it is recommended to avoid eating them because you don’t know how fresh they were. If the mussels have opened after cooking, then these mussels are safe to be eaten and to put on your table
How to Pick the Best Mussels in the Supermarkets?
Pay attention to picking a package with mussels that have as many whole closed shells as possible. Pay close attention to the smell. Mussels that are of the highest quality, must have a fresh smell of the sea. If you notice a disturbing smell, don’t buy these mussels.
Pro Tip: If you have the choice, go for the smaller mussels over the large ones as the smaller mussels are sweeter and more succulent.
Can You Cook Broken Mussels?
It is not recommended to eat broken mussels that have cracked or chipped shells as they may have died already and you will not have any signs of that. As the mussels spoil very quickly it will be better to avoid eating them in order to not get poisoned from them.
How to Store Mussels Properly?
Ideally, you should cook the mussels as soon as possible after you bought them as the mussels may go wrong very quickly. However, if you don’t have the opportunity to eat them today, you can put them in a dry large bowl that you should cover with a damp tea towel.
Pro Tip Don’t cover the mussels with a lid or even worse with clingfilm as they will suffocate and you will find all of them dead the next day.
Quick Note: Don’t soak them in water. If you soak them in water for a longer period, the mussels will use the oxygen from the water and will suffocate. It is better to leave them without water as they can sit up to 4 days without water.
How to Clean Mussels Before Cooking?
- Start by checking if the mussels are alive. They should smell fresh and be closed.
- Put them under the cold running water and remove the barnacles or sea moss from them.
- If the mussels have “beards” you can remove these threads from the side of the shells. Keep in mind that not the mussels have this thread.
- If you notice some of the mussels that are opened, try to lightly touch them and check if they close. If not, it is better to avoid cooking these mussels.
Risks of Eating Dead Mussels?
If you are living in the center of the continent and you don’t have access to fresh seafood or you are not sure of their quality, it is recommended to opt for pasteurized, vacuum-packed, cooked, or frozen seafood because they were processed when they were in their freshest state. If you will pick pasteurized or frozen mussels, you will minimize the risks.
But if you have access to fresh mussels, pay attention to their shell. Make sure the mussel’s shell is whole and undamaged. Also, make sure that all of them are closed.
Mussels Didn’t Open After Cooking. What to Do?
If the mussels were closed before cooking, but they didn’t open during cooking, this is another sign that you should avoid eating these mussels as they have already died before you started cooking them.
What Happens if You Eat Closed Mussels
In the past, it was always recommended to throw away all the mussels that weren’t opened after cooking them as this is a sign that the mussels were dead. This was a myth that was later demonstrated that you can eat closed mussels. If you know that the mussels were stored properly and they weren’t sitting for too long under the sun, you can eat closed mussels if you can open them.
Closed mussels mean that the muscle that opens and closes the shells didn’t relax or was pushed closed during cooking. You can compare these closed mussels with others that are opened. Have both of them the same smell, color, and texture (on touch)?
Attention! Eat the closed mussels only if you’re 100% sure of their provenience and how they were stored. Let’s say that you bought them fully alive, and they died in your fridge overnight. Otherwise, you may risk getting poisoned and having other health problems.
How to Tell if Mussels Are Bad?
- Check the smell and the appearance of the mussels. Do they smell fresh? Or they already have an unpleasant smell. If so, throw them away.
- Is the shell broken in any places?
- Are the mussels fully opened? That means that they died already.
Answering Your Questions
Besides the fact that they may die before cooking, if you’re cooking larger mussels, they need around 5-7 minutes to be fully cooked. Maybe you didn’t cook them enough and because of that, the mussels didn’t open yet?
On another side, make sure to not overcook the mussels as they will become gummy. If you see that the majority of the sheets open, that means that they are cooked enough.
Mussels require air to breathe when they are out of the water. Because of that, when you put them in a bowl without water in the fridge they will slightly open in order to breathe.
It is not recommended to cook the mussels that are opened already as the bacteria may grow already on them. You may risk poisoning yourself by eating these mussels.
Once you cooked the mussels, you should keep them in the fridge in air-tight containers and enjoy eating them less than two days after you cooked them.
As a simple rule, buy around one pound of mussels per person if you plan to serve the mussels as the main dish. If you will serve them only as a side dish, near something else, you may consider serving only 1/2 pound per serving. But of course, these amounts may differ if you plan to serve a generous portion of mussels for your guests.