How Long to Boil Mussels – Cooking Mussels the Right Way

Published Categorized as Journal

Mussels can be an excellent appetizer or starting dish for a nice home-cooked meal. They are easy to cook once you know how to, and will impress any guest you may have. Mussels are loved for their flavor and light texture, especially when paired with a creamy sauce. They can be tough to cook without the proper know-how, so best stay tuned and read on!

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Table of Contents

What Are Mussels?

Mussels are defined as bivalve mollusks that mostly survive in saltwater and freshwater habitats. They can easily be identified by their asymmetrical shells that are longer than they are wide. Mussels can easily be compared to clams and oysters as they have a rough exterior shell protecting the edible meat inside.

Mussels are split into two main species. These are the North Atlantic Blue mussels and the Mediterranean mussels. Both are very similar, although the times in which they are best eaten vary. Blue mussels are in season from May – July, whereas, Bay Mussels are in season from February to May.

Which type of mussels you have do not matter, they are both cooked the same with the same ingredients, resulting in a perfect dish. It is worth trying to ensure you have the right species of mussels for the time of year, as they will be fresher and of a higher quality.

Cooking Mussels

The dish we are technically making with these mussels is known as a “Moules Marinière” and is made by boiling the mussels in either wine, cider, or beer.

Personally, I like to choose wine or cider as the fruity flavors pair brilliantly with mussels. A dry white wine is ideal.


For this dish, the ingredients are surprisingly simple, as is the recipe. For a perfect Moules Marinière, you will want;

  • 4 lb mussels
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • ½ oz butter, non-salted
  • Herb mix, parsley, thyme, and bay leaves
  • 3 ½ fl oz dry white wine or cider
  • 4 fl oz double cream
  • Coarsely chopped parsley leaves, optional
  • Crusty bread for serving alongside

Cleaning The Mussels

  1. The first step in this entire process is ensuring you have clean mussels that are ready to be cooked. To do this, you will want to have a stiff brush or coarse sponge to help remove any debris or dirt stuck to the outside of the shell.
  2. After doing this, rinse the mussels under cold water to help get any leftover dirt off of the shells. This is also the best time to remove the beard, a small clump of hairs, and any other bits of dirt from the mussel. If there are any particularly tricky bits to clean, use an old knife to scrape them off.

Prepare The Ingredients

If you have not already, now is the time to prepare all of the ingredients to the specifications mentioned in the ingredients list. Alongside this, you will want to find a large frying pan that has a lid. It is important that this frying pan is large enough to accommodate all of your mussels.

Once you have this pan ready, add your butter and shallots until the butter is melted and the shallots have softened. Also, add your garlic to this as well as the herb mix.

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Turn Up the Heat

  1. When you are left with a pan of melted butter and soft shallots, crank up your heat to high and add your mussels immediately.
  2. Add your wine or cider and allow the mussels to steam with the lid on for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Ensure that you shake the pan every now and then to mix all of the ingredients around roughly.

Finish and Serve

After you have let the mussels steam for a bit, open the lid and add the rest of your ingredients such as the double cream and chopped parsley. Once these are added, remove the pan from the heat and stir it all together.

Once stirred roughly, use a ladle to serve this dish in as many portions as necessary. Serve alongside the crust bread if you want to.

Mussel Dinner

Tips and Tricks for Boiling Mussels

When buying mussels and storing them, there are a few tips that everyone should know.

These are:

  1. Buy clean-looking mussels to save time later on
  2. Fresh, living mussels are heavy and lively, if they feel hollow then do not buy them
  3. Mussels automatically close their shells when you touch them, if this does not happen then the mussels are dead
  4. Mussels should smell like the sea, if they smell foul and disgusting, they are bad
  5. Mussels should be stored in a colander above a container to catch all of the liquid that may drain
  6. Tap water will kill mussels, do not soak them in it
Mussels in a Pot

How Do You Know When Mussels are Done Boiling?

Knowing exactly when to stop boiling your mussels can take a lot of practice. Depending on the state of your mussels before they started boiling, the time will differ.

Live mussels should boil within around 5 minutes, so if they are frozen it will take longer.

(For another guide on frozen seafood, check out this post on frozen shrimp shelf life and thawed salmon in the fridge).

FAQs on How Long to Boil Mussels

Can you over-boil mussels?

You can definitely over-boil mussels. This is not done in an instant, so do not panic. However, when you over-boil mussels they will have a terrible texture that is very rubbery and not nice.

How open should cooked mussels be?

Once cooked, mussels will vary in how open the shells are. Some will still need to be prized open, whereas others will already be as open as you need them to be.

Are mussels cooked alive?

Mussels are very similar to lobsters when they are cooked. The similarity is that they are recommended to be cooked alive so that they are as fresh as possible.

Can you eat mussels raw?

Like the majority of seafood, you can eat mussels raw. Whether you would want to or not is a very different question. When raw, the texture of mussels is off-putting and you will have to ensure you clean them properly before eating them.

Can you cook mussels that are already open?

Mussels that are already open and do not close when you touch them are dead. They can still be cooked, although they will not be as fresh as mussels that are alive during the cooking process.

Categorized as Journal

By Anna

Anna Brooks, the voice behind, is a seasoned writer and editor with an insatiable love for food. While not a professional chef, her culinary adventures and unique insights have captivated readers for years. Anna believes in the transformative power of food, stating it "feeds the soul." Dive into her writings for a mix of inspiration, entertainment, and culinary wisdom. Author Pinterest Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Tumblr Reddit Quora

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