How to Cook Mussels in The Best Garlic-Shallot Broth

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Here is everything you need to know to select and cook mussels in a simple and fragrant garlic-shallot broth for a light and healthy appetizer or dinner. 

Cooking mussels is a great way to show off your skills in the kitchen. Only you will know how easy it is to assemble a flavorful piping hot pot of steamed mussels! 

How do you cook mussels? First, carefully pick through the mussels and remove any bad ones, then clean the shellfish well. Next, sauté olive oil and garlic in a large pot, then add the mussels with white wine and broth. Cook the mussels at a simmer for 5 to 7 minutes at medium-high heat, until they open up. Finally, serve, and enjoy!

How to buy mussels

Fresh mussels should always be sold in their shells. You may find smoked or cured mussels that have been deshelled already. However, for this simple steamed mussel preparation, you certainly want them with their shells intact.

When choosing mussels, the first thing to ask about is freshness. Ask your fishmonger when the mussels arrived at the store. Ideally, they arrived fresh that morning. 

Secondly, take a closer look at the seafood. The shells should be intact and the mussels should not have a strong smell. Ask to take a whiff for good measure. If there are a few cracked shells, don’t fret, this is a normal part of being a mussel.  

After selecting your mussels for dinner, be sure to keep the bag on ice and in the fridge until you start cooking to keep them fresh and alive. 

How to Cook Mussels

When you’ve brought home a fresh bag of mussels, you just need a few more simple ingredients and a large pot with a lid to get cooking. 

Ingredients

Here are the ingredients you need to make simple, delicious steamed mussels with fragrant garlic flavor:

  • 3 pounds of mussels
  • 3 minced cloves of garlic
  • 2 minced shallots
  • 1 cup of chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Prepping the mussels

Step 1: Pick through the mussels

The first step is to carefully inspect your haul of mussels. Empty the bag into a colander in the sink and carefully pick through the mussels. Discard any that have a cracked or damaged shell. 

If you find a mussel with an open shell, tap on it and wait for a few minutes – if it hasn’t closed, discard it. The freshest mussels are still living before you cook them. And opening and closing their shells is normal, but leaving the shell wide open and gaping is a sign that the mussel is no longer alive.

Step 2: Debeard the mussels

The mussel beard is a little string that comes out of the shell. Most mussels will come debearded already, however it doesn’t hurt to check.

If your muscles have a little string on the side, it’s easy to remove. Simply take hold of the beard with your fingers and gently pull it until it detaches from the mussel. Discard the beard. 

Then rinse the mussels in the colander under cold running water. Scrub them well with your hands or a scrub brush to remove any debris or scum from the outside of the shell. 

Cook the mussels

Step 1: Warm up a large pot

When your mussels are well cleaned, debearded and sorted, find a large pot that is big enough to hold all of the muscles. 

Add the olive oil and heat the pan over medium-high heat. Heat the olive oil until it’s shimmering and moves freely around the pot.

Step 2: Sauté the garlic

When the oil is hot, add the minced garlic and the shallots to the pot. Stir for 2 minutes, until the shallots are softened and the garlic is fragrant.

Step 3: Cook the mussels

Now add the mussels to the pot. In addition, pour in the broth and the wine. When everything is inside the pot, cover with a lid and cook for 5 minutes. Shake the saucepan halfway through to evenly distribute the mussels. 

Remember to keep the lid on when you do this. The mussels are cooking via steam, so when you remove the lid, you’ll let out all of the hot steam and reduce the temperature inside the pot too much to keep the mussels cooking. 

Step 4: Check on the mussels

After five minutes have passed, remove the pot lid and check the mussels inside. They should be open by now. If most of the mussels are not yet opened, return the cover and continue to cook for 2 more minutes. Then remove the lid, check the seafood, and discard any closed mussels you find.

Mussels that don’t open were either dead before you started cooking or not fresh. It is never a good idea to eat shellfish of any kind (mussels, clams, etc.) that do not open during cooking. 

Step 5: Serve the mussels

Finally, transfer your steamed mussels to a serving bowl and garnish with parsley and lemon juice if you like. 

Place on the table alongside an empty bowl to catch the shells. Enjoy!

Are open mussels OK to cook?

It depends on the mussel itself. In general, you don’t want to cook mussels that are wide open. They might have gone bad. 

To test whether your open mussel is safe to cook or not, gently tap it on the counter or with a fork. A light tap should force the mussel to close its shell. If it doesn’t close after a few minutes, discard it and move on, don’t cook it!

How should mussels look before cooking?

The perfect mussel has a closed shell with no marks or cracks. They should have a fresh smell, similar to the ocean.

You can probably guess that not all mussels look perfect before you cook them – and that’s okay! Mussels with cracked shells need to be discarded, as should mussels with a foul smell. Mussels with an open shell will probably close shut with a light tap – if they don’t, discard them and move on.

What to serve with steamed mussels

You can serve this simple dish as a fun and shareable first course or appetizer. It’s light and refreshing and the perfect way to whet your appetite for the main meal.

If you’d like to stay in the seafood vein for the entree, then serve your mussels before a dinner of pan-seared trout or mahi-mahi. Or, to take things in a surf and turf direction, you can pair your steamed mussels with pork, chicken or beef

And to soak up all of that savory herby broth? Add a side of crusty bread for dipping!

Storage

It’s best to enjoy your steamed mussels right away after cooking. Seafood doesn’t have a long shelf-life in the fridge. 

However, if you do end up with leftovers, you can store them in an airtight container in the fridge until the next day. Then enjoy your mussels for lunch.

Is there a season for harvesting and eating mussels?

Mussels can actually be enjoyed year-round. However, the most flavorful, meatiest, and most robust season for mussel harvesting is in the winter. 

Mussels

Easy Steamed Mussels

Make simple and delicious steamed mussels with a garlic-shallot broth
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 4

Equipment

  • Colander
  • Cutting board
  • Chef's knife
  • Large pot with a lid

Ingredients
  

  • 3 pounds of mussels
  • 3 minced cloves of garlic
  • 2 minced shallots
  • 1 cup of chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Instructions
 

  • Empty the mussels into a colander in the sink and carefully pick through the mussels. Discard any that have a cracked or damaged shell.
  • If your mussels are not yet debearded, remove the beard, or the sting on the side of the mussel where the opening is, with your hands. Discard the beards. Wash the mussels well and scrub to remove any visible dirt or scum.
  • Add the olive oil to a large pot with a lid and heat the pan over medium-high heat. Heat the olive oil until it’s shimmering and moves freely around the pot.
  • When the oil is hot, add the minced garlic and the shallots to the pot. Stir for 2 minutes, until the shallots are softened and the garlic is fragrant.
  • Now add the mussels to the pot. In addition, pour in the broth and the wine. When everything is inside the pot, cover with a lid and cook for 5 minutes. Shake the saucepan halfway through to evenly distribute the mussels.
  • Remove the pot lid and check the mussels inside. They should be open by now. If most of the mussels are not yet opened, return the cover and continue to cook for 2 more minutes. Then remove the lid, check the seafood, and discard any closed mussels you find.
  • Finally, transfer your steamed mussels to a serving bowl and garnish with parsley and lemon juice if you like.
Keyword steamed mussels

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