How to Eat Mussels

Two Methods:Eating Mussels in a RestaurantEating Mussels Casually

It’s easy to get stumped when trying to figure out how to eat mussels. Since they are so often served in the shell, we are left wondering how to get the edible part into our mouth and what to do with the empty shell. As delicious as they are, they can be a challenge to eat. You can eat mussels using you fingers, a fork, and a spoon. You don't have to end a meal of mussels with sticky fingers and dribbles of clam juice on their shirt. For tips on mussel eating etiquette and the confidence to order them without worry, read the instructions in this tutorial.

Method 1
Eating Mussels in a Restaurant

  1. Image titled Eat Mussels Step 1
    Hold the shell in one hand (usually the dominate hand). Mussels are typically served in a skillet type frying pan, in a bowl with broth, or in seafood pasta. Lift one mussel from your dish and grip it from the base with the open side of the shell facing outward.
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    Pull the meat out with a fork. With your free hand, gently pry the tender flesh from the open shell. You will notice that the meat is still partially attached to the shell, so you may need to use your fork to scrape around the bottom of the meat to remove it from the shell.
    • Poke at the meat gently and pull it from the shell slowly. Take care not to accidentally stab your hand with the fork.
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    Prepare the first bite. If your dish comes with broth, transfer the meat from your fork to a spoon and dip it into your broth. If your dish is served with a seafood pasta, use your fork to gather a bite of noodles. Eat your mussel in one bite.
    • Your mussels might come without broth or pasta, in which case you will probably be given a rinse bowl for your fingers. If a rinse bowl is present, it is perfectly acceptable to eat with your fingers.
    • If your dish is served with broth, you can also spear your mussel with your fork and enjoy it with a separate spoonful or broth.
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    Take care of the empty shell. Typically you will be served a seperate bowl or plate for distended shells. If you are not given a seperate plate or bowl, place your empty shells back onto your plate or bowl. Never plate discarded shells in a communal plate if sharing.
    • Generally, when eating mussels in the United States, it is considered proper etiquette to discard the shell and continue to use your fork to pry out the additional mussels.
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    Finish your meal. If eating mussels with broth, you can spoon the broth into your mouth or use a piece of bread to soak some of it up for a delicious bite. Take care to dip one piece of bread a time (you can even spear it with your fork) to avoid double dipping.
    • If enjoying seafood pasta, alternate between bites of mussels and bites of pasta.
    • Consume your mussels one at a time until your meal is finished.

Method 2
Eating Mussels Casually

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    Eat straight from the shell. Anywhere besides a formal dinner, it is acceptable to pick up the shell and fill it with a little bit of the broth and then suck the mussel and broth directly from the shell, although you may still want to loosen it with a fork first.
    • When your mussels arrive, there will likely be a small amount of meat juice inside the shell, which can be quite enjoyable. Sucking your mussel from the shell allows you to easily enjoy the juices.
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    Break your first shell in half and use it as a spoon. While not generally considered polite in American fine dining restaurants, in other countries, like France, it is commonplace to use your empty mussel shell as a tool to pry out subsequent meat from the other shells.[1] Use one half as a spoon and insert it into your next mussel to scoop out the meat.
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    Use your empty shell as tweezers. Grip the back of your first discarded shell with the open side facing out. Use your fingers to gently apply pressure to the top and bottom of the shell. This way, you can open and close the shell with your fingers and use it to pick up other shells.
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    Remove all your muscle from the shell before eating any of them. While this is often considered unusual, it is acceptable in most places to pry out all of your mussels at the beginning of your meal and enjoy them all at once.
    • Particularly if your mussels come in a booth or soup, this may provide ease in eating.


  • Squeeze a fresh splash of lemon or lime juice onto your mussels for a nice kick.
  • Make a butter white wine and lemon sauce, and pour that all over the mussels, perhaps sprinkle on some feta cheese, get a nice loaf of French bread for dipping and you will be in heaven.
  • Keep plenty of napkins handy.


  • Once the mussels are cooked, never try to pry open one that has remained closed. Discard it, because it could make you sick.
  • For raw shellfish connoisseurs, especially raw oyster lovers, you specifically need to know about the risk for Vibrio infections. Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium that lives in warm seawater and is not caused by pollution. While not common, these infections were 43 percent higher in 2012 compared with 2006–2008, according to 2012 FoodNet data.
  • Store live mussels covered loosely with a clean, damp towel.
  • Wash your hands before and after handling seafood.
  • Handle and store raw and cooked mussels separately to avoid cross contamination.
  • Do not store mussels in airtight containers, plastic bags or in water.
  • Use caution if you harvest bivalve shellfish yourself. Obey posted warnings and check with local authorities to verify that the waters are certified for shellfish harvesting before you harvest them or decide to eat them.
  • Mussels in the shell should be refrigerated between 32 degrees and 45 degrees fahrenheit.
  • Don't eat dead mussels whose shells don’t close tightly when tapped or agitated.[2]
  • Refrigerate promptly after purchase and eat within two days.[3]
  • Neither hot sauce nor alcohol kills bacteria. Be sure to properly cook all seafood.
  • Major types of food poisoning that can result from eating raw or undercooked fish and shellfish include Salmonella and Vibrio vulnificus.[4]
  • Take care when eating any raw shellfish. Mussels harvested from approved waters, handled and processed in sanitary conditions are safe for raw consumption by healthy individuals. [5]
  • Besides methylmercury, there are additional concerns if you plan to eat raw seafood. For most healthy people, eating reasonable amounts of raw seafood poses only a small health risk. Nonetheless, there is a risk for everyone. Foodborne illness can be the result, potentially causing severe vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, among other symptoms.
  • For people at “high-risk” for foodborne illness, severe and life-threatening illness may result from consuming raw or undercooked fish and shellfish.[6] These individuals include those with compromised immune systems or with decreased stomach acidity, as well as pregnant women, infants, young children and older adults.
  • Raw fish and shellfish consumption is never advised for high-risk individuals. If you are in this category, thoroughly cook fish and shellfish. If unsure of risk level, consult with your physician or registered dietitian nutritionist.

Things You'll Need

  • Fork
  • Spoon
  • bowls

Article Info

Categories: Fish and Seafood