4 Rules for Buying the Freshest Mussels

Don’t be intimidated if you’re not a regular mussels eater.

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If you’re looking to add lean seafood to your diet (it’s a great source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids) mussels are an affordable and tasty way to go. Plus, they’re much easier to cook than you might think. Entertaining company? A mussels appetizer is super impressive.

But choosing fresh mussels at the grocery store or fish market can be intimidating if you’ve never had to buy mussels before. Here are four simple rules from Chef Jason Fullilove to buy fresh mussels that even the most discerning palates would love:

  1. Choose farmed mussels instead of wild mussels. These mussels face fewer predators, so they don’t focus their energy on growing a bigger, stronger shell. Instead, they tend to have  a meatier interior. This means you’ll get more meat per dollar!

  2. Check for a fresh smell. Like with most seafood, you are better off buying  mussels with  the least “fishy” smell. That odor is a sign that the mussel is rotting inside, so give it a sniff and look for fresh mussels with a more neutral, salty sea aroma. (Here are tips for how to buy the best seafood.)

  1. Ask about the mussels’ source. Find out where the mussels came from and when they were harvested. Mussels are best within three to five days of leaving the water, so use this information to know how fresh the mussels are and how quickly you need to eat them.

  2. Don’t buy opened mussels. If the shell is open, the meat inside is, um, dead. To ensure your mussels are fresh, buy only closed, firm mussels.

These mussels will need to be cleaned before eating, and then they can be prepared in a variety of ways. Common preparations include streaming, grilling, boiling, smoking, or frying in butter. In Mediterranean cooking, it’s common to steam fresh mussels with white wine and herbs.