What Part of Mussels Do You Eat?

Mussels are a basic staple on the menu of a lot of seafood restaurants, but if you’re not sure how to cook them or eat them, you’re not alone. Mussels can be found in both saltwater and freshwater environments, and they can be pan fried, steamed, or even baked in an oven.

The part of the mussel that you eat is the meat on the inside of the hard shell. No other part of this mollusk is edible.

What Are Mussels?

Mussel prepared after chef learned what part of mussels you do eat

Mussels are a type of mollusk. They live in water and the good ones have shells that are completely intact, which is something the chef always looks for before deciding which mussels to cook. In addition to the shell, you should also avoid eating the hinge, which is a tendon-like part that holds the top of the shell and the bottom of the shell together. The hinge usually has a sour taste and isn’t meant to be eaten in the first place.

The Parts of a Mussel You Can Eat

The only part of the mussel you can eat is the mussel meat found inside the shell. Most of the time, people pull the mussel meat from inside of the shell with a fork, or they simply slurp the entire mussel out of the shell without the use of utensils.

If you pull the meat out, you’ll notice a little rubbery stump that gets left behind, attached to the inside of the shell. This is the mussel’s adductor muscle, which is what keeps the shell closed. Like most muscles, the adductor is edible—it’s just really hard to get unstuck from the shell, so most people leave it behind.

Mussels can be served on the half shell or kept inside of the whole shell while you remove the meat with your fingers.

How Do You Cook Mussels?

Cooked mussels are delicious. In fact, you should never eat raw mussels or mussels that are only lightly cooked.

One of the easiest ways to cook mussels is to steam them using a little white wine and a little broth. You simply dump the mussels in their intact shells into simmering water and let them steam for roughly five to six minutes. When you remove them, you’ll notice that the part sometimes called the beard or hinge is very noticeable, so make sure that you rip that off and throw it away before you eat your mussels.

Mussels prepared after chef learned what part of mussels you do eat

If your mussels ever taste a little like rubber, it means you’ve cooked them too long. Keep in mind that regardless of how you cook mussels, you usually only need to cook them for under 10 minutes. They do not take long to bake, pan fry or steam. They have a fresh and light flavor that is generally not fishy. They also have a great texture and don’t need a lot of seasoning to make them taste good.

Other Things You Need To Know

Now that you know that the only edible parts of the mussel are the meaty parts inside of the shell, let’s go over some important things to remember when cooking and eating mussels.

First of all, if you end up with leftover mussels, remember that they need to be refrigerated and eaten quickly (within one or two days if possible). Go ahead and leave them in their shells, and don’t separate the shell from the meat until you’re ready to eat the meat.

You should always clean your mussels before cooking them by running them under cold water and using a paring knife to clean off any dirt or grime found on the shells. Also, keep in mind that most recipes require a little water to be in the pot or pan, especially if you’re planning to steam the mussels.

Never cook mussels on high heat or let them boil because you’ll overcook them. It only takes eight to nine minutes to cook your mussels in most cases. And if you finish cooking your mussels and notice that some of the shells aren’t open, you need to throw those out because they are duds.