How to Clean Mussels

Fresh mussels can be bought from fishmongers, seafood specialty stores, and major grocery stores. The shops providing the mussels will probably not clean them before selling them to customers. In order to keep them healthy and tasty while being cooked and prepared, mussels need to have the ocean dirt and sand removed from them, as well as the beards emerging from the shells. Clean mussels right before cooking them.


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    Pick out and throw away any defective mussels. Mussels should be closed tightly. Tap any open mussels lightly against the counter. They should close up immediately, but if they do not close, throw them out. Discard any other mussels with open shells. Unwrap them from the bag or packaging as soon as they get home to allow them to breathe. If they die before they are consumed, the mussels will be poisonous.
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    Soak the mussels. Submerge the mussels in a bowl of clean, cool water. Leave them to soak for 20 minutes. While underwater, they will breathe and filter the water, which will begin to push out any sand or ocean minerals from inside their shells.
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    Remove the beards from the mussels. Little brown threads may be sticking out from between the 2 shells. This is the beard. Grasp the beard and pull it out and towards the hinge end of the mussel. Remove it completely and discard.
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    Remove the mussels from the water. Use a slotted spoon to take the mussels out of the bowl. Place them in another clean bowl of water. Do not reuse the first bowl by draining and refilling it. Using the slotted spoon will help ensure that the sand from the water does not re-enter the mussel.
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    Brush off any sand and debris 1 mussel at a time. Pull them individually out of the second bowl of water and gently scrub at the shell. Pick off any slime that may be clinging to the shell. Rinse them off under running water.
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    Pat the mussels lightly with a clean towel to dry. Dump the bowls of water, and cook the mussels any way that is desired.


  • The beard is not inedible, and it is okay if the entire thing cannot be removed.
  • It is possible that not all the mussels will have beards. This is okay, it just means that it was probably removed during the catching and processing of the mussels.


  • Shellfish can sometimes be affected by paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) toxins, which is often associated with "red tide" situations in coastal waters. Check with the Department of Agriculture about any warnings in the area where mussels are purchased.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 bowls of water
  • Slotted spoon
  • Dry towel

Article Info

Categories: Cleaning Food | Fish and Seafood