Some people find cooking mussels to be somewhat daunting, and there are many good reasons why this is so. If you do not know how to cook your mussels the right way, you end up with seafood you would not want to eat. This does not mean however that you should shy away from trying your hand at cooking mussels.
In order to end up with a spectacular plate of these bivalves for lunch or dinner, you should know the correct way to cook mussels. There are many ways to cook these, and the cooking method you choose is often a matter of taste. You can steam them, pan roast them, grill them, and even make chowder with them.
Before you take out your ingredients, there are a few things you need to know about how to properly prepare and cook mussels. While these are generally easy to cook, a few mistakes in handling and cooking these things usually ruin what is supposed to be a good plate of seafood. Here are some of those mistakes:
- Not properly cleaning mussels before cooking – in the US, mussels often come to you washed and cleaned. This does not mean however that these are truly clean enough to be cooked. It won’t hurt to rinse these off once you get home and to remove any surface grit as well as the remaining “beards” that you find on them.
- Not checking if these are fresh – another mistake people make when cooking mussels is not making sure that all of the ones they are cooking are fresh. The rule-of-thumb when it comes to mussels, and any bivalves you prepare for a meal, is to get them alive. Most of the ones you will get will have both halves of the shell closed. If you find one that is open, give it a light tap to see if it closes. If it does, it is alive and fresh. If it does not, it is dead and should be thrown out.
- Using only water in cooking – cooking mussels in some water is fine for some people, but if you want tasty bivalves on your plate, you should always add a little broth, beer, or wine when steaming these.
- Adding too much liquid – mussels have a bit of liquid in them, so when you cook these, the liquids within them will usually dribble out. This is why it is advisable that you add only a small amount of liquid to these when you steam or stew them. This will also result in a richer broth and tastier mussels. What is the right amount of liquid for a good batch of mussels? Just pour enough to cover the bottom of the pan.
- Not adding aromatics and herbs during the cooking process – some people say that it is better to cook mussels in wine only so that the natural flavor of these bivalves shines through. What they do not realize is that a few herbs added to the cooking liquid can actually enhance the flavor of mussels.
- Adding the mussels to the pan before adding the cooking liquid – this is another mistake a lot of people make when they steam their mussels. The proper procedure should always begin with the addition of the cooking liquid to the pan, the adding of the aromatics, and then the mussels should be added last.
- Letting the cooking liquid come to a boil after adding the mussels – while most instructions for cooking mussels tell you to place your pan on high heat, this does not mean that it should remain on high heat the entire time the mussels are cooking. What you should do is to bring your cooking liquid to a boil, then lower the heat so that the liquid just simmers. You can then add your mussels to this simmering pot.
- Not cooking with the lid on – to properly steam your mussels, you need to put the lid on the pot immediately after you place your bivalves in it. How do you tell if these are cooked? All you need to do is to time it. 7 minutes on a simmer should cook these through. Once you turn off the heat after the time is up, leave the pan covered for another minute before taking the lid off and stirring the mussels to ensure that each one is covered in its luxurious broth.
Also, it is wise to remember that any mussel that remains closed after cooking should be thrown out. This is to ensure that you do not eat spoiled ones and end up with a stomach ache. Mussels that remain closed after cooking are not fresh and were in fact already dead before these were placed in the pot.
Just avoid any of these mistakes and you will be sure to have an amazing bowl or plate of mussels to share with your loved one for lunch or dinner.