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You are watching: Are closed mussels safe to eat

Most human being who like to cook and also eat mussels and also clams recognize that they room done food preparation when the shells open. Together you may have gathered indigenous the title, I’m walking to concern that. In fact, I’m walk to have actually the concern the whole tale about how if they don’t open, the proves they were dead, and so you have to discard them. Friend see, over there is simply no science to it!

Before I acquire into this, let me provide you a piece of wisdom that i learned in taking care of strength and also fitness topics, and also that will form the basis of what follows: It just takes one influential human to say one point once, at the ideal time and also place, for it to become gospel. No science needed.

Certain locations may it is in semi-permanently posted off-limits because that harvesting as result of over-harvesting. Other areas may it is in temporarily posted due to toxin.

Bad mussels, in fact, were well-known to it is in a usual problem in the late 1800s and also early 1900s both of the paralytic or nervous toxin variety or the gastroenteric variety. Provided the background of the mussel as leading to either toxic or pathogenic food-poisoning outbreak the did not constantly respond to extended heat application, the is difficult to see why anyone would assume that an open mussel should be a great mussel, as numerous of this poisonous mussels would have actually indeed opened, simply because of the truth that the adductor muscle broke down.

Now, although over there is quiet the sometimes outbreak that food poisoning from shellfish contaminated through pathogens, and, unfortunately, tho illnesses from paralytic shellfish poisoning, there is very tiny need come worry around the type of stubborn pathogens the were current in mussels gathered indigenous sewage-contaminated waters this days. We don’t dredge wild mussels really much now, therefore they don’t come from mud and muck. Although you can still get wild mussels many of the mussels we eat currently are ‘cultured.’ castle come native nice clear water over the sand, wherein they invest their time hanging out, literally, on lengths that rope. The bonus is the this is a much more environmentally friendly practice, as we don’t churn up and damage the sea floor by dredging it because that mussels.

Enter the Fisheries Biologist from down Under

Curious and Curiouser, i beg your pardon is a cool science trivia book, led me to one more guy named Nick Ruello, that is the origin of the woman Grigson connection. Ruello is a fisheries biologist and also former manager because that Fish Marketing at victor Dept of agriculture & countryside Affairs, Australia and now chairman of Ruello & Associates. 4Ruello, Nick. LinkedIn profile. Http://> he was i was delegated to write a report for Seafood services Australia, a nonprofit company funded through seafood sector Fisheries research and advance Corporation, i m sorry is a cofunded partnership of the Australian government and the fishing industry. After reading his report, and also the post in FRDC’s June 2007 Newsletter, “Blue Mussels: one open and also shut Case” by Melissa Marino with comments from Muello around his research, i think the situation of the unopened mussel has actually been closed. 5Ruello, Nick. “IMPROVING write-up HARVEST taking care of TO include VALUE come FARMED MUSSELS.” FRDC. Seafood solutions Austrailia, Jan. 2004. Web. 9 Apr. 2012. Http:// 6Marino, Melissa. “Blue Mussels: one Open and also Shut Case.” Fisheries research study and development Corporation News: FISH 15:2 (June 2007): 4. Web. 9 Apr. 2012. Http://> Both these reports are freely easily accessible on the web, for this reason you need to read them for you yourself for more enlightenment. The links are accessible in the resource list because that this post, below.

Why would Muello, the fishing industry, and also others, be interested in stamping out this myth? follow to Muello, this myth reasons the rubbish of around 370 tons of good seafood per year, precious at the very least $3 million. To me, that is wanton waste and I think is a very good motivation to question the validity the discarding this shellfish.

Muello’s research concerned the post-harvest taking care of of farmed blue mussels and the main purposes that the report were to 1) identify the crucial quality and also marketing parameters because that chilled mussels and prepare product specifications for “premium” and also “standard” mussels, 2) construct a code Of exercise which takes account of product labeling, uniform dimension grading, shell fouling and cleanliness, problem index and any obligated food safety requirements for the indict of all industry sectors, and also 3) prepare a product trade Users overview for wholesalers, retailers, and also restaurateurs.

Along the way, he also performed research study to “explore the communication of the advice frequently given by cookery writers to discard mussels which execute not open up after cooking.”

It made feeling to execute this because Muello and also his wife, additionally a scientist, already had to perform a huge number of trials to construct the high quality grading index sought because that mussels. As always happens, castle were cooking the mussels to collect data on the meat content and a few, invariably, would not open. The end of curiosity, claims Muello, he opened up a couple of and uncovered that lock were every cooked.

Consequently, Muello go ahead and did 33 official experiments over 32 months, together his very own guinea pig, trial and error mussels from different places and different time of the year. He additionally performed lots of informal trials come lend an ext support to his findings.

The unopened mussels, after a usual cooking time, ranged native zero come 90 percent and at the very least some of the mussels continued to be closed in 90 percent that the tests (which is my experience as well, albeit the comparatively limited). After further food preparation for 90 more seconds, about 13.2 percent still stayed closed. And also some just never opened no matter what. Yet, states Muello:

We discovered the unoponend mussels to be no much more dangerous than the open up ones. Rather than being discarded, close up door mussels need to be opened with a knife to inspect their condition and cooked a little much more if deemed necessary. These might then be related to as much safer to eat, provided their greater exposure to heat.

Muello thinks that the advice to throw away unopened mussels was nothing an ext than a well-meaning however unfounded instruction stemming native cookbook authors and teachers repeating what they had been told, also though what they had been called was just an old-wives-tale, having actually never been subject to scrutiny.

Breaking that Down, or Rather, the break the Adductor Down

So what go this all come under to? We currently know that many dead mussels have actually shells that room open and also that do not close when tapped. Why would a dead mussell’s covering be open? Because, remember, open up is the “default” position as result of the spring-like stress and anxiety of the ligament arrangement. The softer adductor mussel deteriorates before the an ext resilient ligament, and also thus the covering opens.

Haven’t you ever wondered why you check to view if they room alive prior to cooking them and also then ‘check’ again through confirming they are opened? There never was any type of reason for it. Most mussels, as soon as dead, will BE OPEN. Because the adductor division down and also turns loose the shell. When you’ve tapped and confirmed any kind of opened mussels room alive, there is no point in any kind of further precaution of this nature. A wild-caught mussel, i suppose, may sometimes die and have it’s shell fused close up door by mud and muck however I’ve never ever personally encountered this.

Why carry out some mussels open sooner 보다 others, once cooking? Maybe because some mussels are older than others, and also therefore their muscle is weaker, which is what Phil Lamb of spring Bay Seafood suggests in the FDRC report. The fresher mussels have actually fresher muscles and so they deserve to sometimes “hang on prefer hell.” but do you really mean the procedure of all these different mussells having actually their adductors failure to the point of tearing loose be an accurate kind of thing? Certainly, that is reasonable to intend that a few will take much longer than others, and also that there may be stragglers that just don’t turn loosened after any reasonable period of cooking, which for a mussel is really short.

Now, remember once I retained hinting the James Peterson had actually another, much more practical factor for saying to cook the mussels till they to be opened? The factor is simple. If you do not, some of the mussels the you open up with a knife, return they will certainly pop open up easily, will not be sitting pretty ~ above one half of the shell, yet will continue to be clinging come both halves, and may even tear. You then need to dig in ~ it a bit and also mussels normally come appropriate off the covering with very tiny effort. I doubt this is whereby Peterson’s advice trunk from. He additionally mentions looking for any kind of mussels that room open however still attached to both shells and also cooking further. This could only happen if the muscle tore or separated there is no detaching from the shell, I would think, and I would not connect in further cooking for this reason, as it would just serve come over-cook the mussels. I could be wrong, that course, together Peterson is much more of a cooking expert than I will ever before be.

So, cooking mussels until they open, was probably nothing more than a practical thing come some, whereas come others, it came to be a proof that the mussel had actually been alive. It is tough to speak why anyone really ever thought this “proved” a mussel was alive and also fresh, yet I think it to be probably due to the fact that they believed that a live and also fresh mussel opened up together a response to heat. You gain the picture, prefer they open up up their shells to cool turn off or something and if they don’t, fine they must have actually been dead. That course, this is dead wrong. The solution of a mussel to any kind of kind of threat is come close up tight.

So, friend see, there simply was never ever anything to it in ~ all. Mussels open, many of the time, when cooked, because the muscle that holds the covering close breaks down and also detaches native the shell, enabling the tension of the more resilient tendon come pull open the shell. If castle don’t open, that proves nothing much more than the it’s acquisition a little bit longer for the muscle come detach. Currently that girlfriend know, you can stop wasting mussels!

We all desire to be certain that our mussels space good, of course. Well, you’re walk to do the tap test on any kind of open ones. Plus, part advice from Michael Bacash, a seafood chef in Melbourne, is recounted in the report. Besides stating that new mussels will close your shells when tapped, he says checking a mussels weight and also smell before cooking room the finest tests you deserve to do. The freshest mussels, as well as being closed, will be complete of water. He also agrees: “Whether castle are open up or closeup of the door on cooking is no really relevant.”

James Peterson gives another test because that dead mussels, i beg your pardon I’ve heard before. This one is based, again, ~ above a healthy mussel maintaining it’s covering tightly closed. He says to push the shells party in the contrary directions. Any type of dead mussels will open and fall personally in her hand. He seems to have missed the memo. They would have actually probably opened up lengthy before, if they were so much gone regarding “fall personally in her hand.” however what space you gonna do? ns still love the guy.

You ever before seen frozen mussels? Yes, I’ve had actually some indigenous time to time as soon as I couldn’t get any kind of fresh. Friend can get them in boxes currently with butter and garlic sauce, ready to autumn in a pan and also cook up. They’re not bad. I understand foodies will sneer and also turn their nose up but I think they space okay in a pinch. Guess what, frozen to fatality mussels open further when you chef them (although lock are already cooked at least partially). So, anyway…

The only difficulty to me, with frozen ready mussels is the the sauce required white wine to get that classic heavy steam mussels taste. What’s that classic steamed mussels kinda thang, you ask? Well, here is your recipe. Remember, once I speak ‘classic’ I mean there just isn’t much that have the right to be improved, it’s pretty much perfection and that is why it’s a classic. You have the right to play approximately with different herbs, yet really what you want is part nice seasoned and grilled crusty bread to go through it. You know, to dip in the sauce.

Oh, one more thing before the recipe. You may be wonder on how many mussels you need for you and your friends. It counts of food on if you setup to eat nothing but mussels or the mussels are just an appetizer. For an appetizer you desire 1/2 come 3/4lbs per person. For a key course you want at the very least 1.5lbs every person. I’d get more…they always go. The recipe listed below serves up a “main course” because that 4 people.

Steamed Mussels in White alcohol Sauce


6lbs mussels, scrubbed and rinsed1 cup dried white wine3 shallots1 clove carefully minced garlic3 tbs chopped fresh parsley4 tbs butter


Put the wine, shallots, and garlic right into a deep stockpot and simmer, covered, over low warmth for five minutes.

Add the mussels every at once and also cover, increasing the warm to high. Boil for 2 minutes and, making use of a pot holder or towel to secure the lid, shiver the short article to redistribute the mussels in the broth. Vapor for 2 an ext minutes, then inspect to check out if most of the mussels room open. Chef two minutes more, if you think it’s needed. Try to save the food preparation to 4 come 6 minutes. Some resources recommend 10 minutes because that safety, yet this will certainly generally an outcome in over-cooked mussels.

Remove the mussels indigenous the pot, and also put them into a large serving bowl, or individual serving bowls, relying on how you are serving them. Leave the broth behind. Check any unopened mussels with a knife, away from the other mussels. If castle are full of mud or otherwise look at or odor wrong, discard them.

Check the broth the you left in the pot because that grit, which will certainly have worked out to the bottom of the pan, if present. Grit is unlikely, unless your mussels to be wild caught or you didn’t clean lock properly. If over there is grit, carefully pour the liquid into a sauce pan, leaving any grit in the bottom of the pan. Include the butter to the broth and also boil, stirring, till thickened a little. Pour the broth end the mussels and also sprinkle through chopped parsley. Serve immediately with crusty slices of bread, preferable grilled for a smoky taste.

Some necessary Tips on Storing, Cleaning, and also Preparing Mussels!

Never to buy a mussel through a chipped, separation or damaged shell. If girlfriend do finish up with any…just toss them.It’s finest to cook mussels, and also any shellfish or fish for that matter, the job you buy them. If friend cannot, however, store fresh mussels in a bowl inside the refrigerator, extended with a wet towel, for not more than one or two days.Many cookbooks advise that you should automatically place your mussels in a container of cold water to store them. Never do this. Castle will easily die and as girlfriend may have gathered, dead mussels are inedible mussels.Mussels might have small beards (called byssal threads) the stick out the sheet of their shell. This what they usage to affix to things in the water. Never pull off the moustache in development as this may kill the mussel. The beards have to only be removed, with your fingers, simply prior to cooking. If it’s hard to eliminate use a kitchen towel to grip it. Periodically I use I gain the beard in between the tongue of a tiny knife and my finger to traction it. This provides more grip as well. Some cookbooks instruct a special means to traction the beard out, to prevent killing the mussel:

* instead of pulling the beard out toward the opening end of the mussel, pull towards the hinged end. This is an alleged to avoid killing the mussel. I still always wait to beard mine mussels until not an ext than 20 minutes before cooking them.

Despite every the goings ~ above above about tapping mussels that space open, this instruction suspect the mussel is simply slightly open. If you uncover a mussel that is gaping wide open…forget around it. You will certainly probably have the ability to see it is bad, or smell. Lining it..mussels aren’t huge mouths.Check her mussels because that weight. The ones that feel lot lighter or much heavier might be dead. Give these a sniff and go front and shot pushing the shells apart sideways to check out if they remain together.Good live fresh mussels don’t smell fishy in a poor way. They have to smell favor a day in ~ the beach…a clean non-polluted beach. If it provides you wrinkle your nose or feel favor you’re about to throw up…well…Most mussels we gain today, as mentioned, space cultivated. They will certainly not likely have barnacles on lock so you won’t have to scrape them. I still scrub them v a brush if rinsing them..but I’m as with that.

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So, What’s The take it Home?

The take house is that if you’ve read all the means to the finish of this article, you space my type of reader and also I love you because that it! A many of world might check out this, and think it come be quite reasonable, however still, out of a modicum of caution, choose to litter away any unopened mussels. To that, ns say, ns don’t reprimand you! ns personally, don’t throw them away yet if girlfriend think I’m do the efforts to to convince you to execute as i do, think again! I’ve excellent a the majority of research and also used a most reasoning to pertained to my conclusion, yet the honest truth is, ns still can’t phone call you for sure. Heck, this post is as much for the curious together for the human who really desires to use the information. I favor both type of readers!

Now, if friend have gained sick after eat mussels (or clams), and you thought it to be an unopened mussel, over there is one thing you could want to consider. How do friend know? See, you had already been pre-influenced come believe, like most of us have actually been, that unopened mussels to be bad, despite a absence of any type of real proof to assistance that belief (we were told by experts!) But, if you gain sick after eating a mess of mussels, all you really understand is that you acquired sick and you have actually a reasonable doubt about the freshness of the mussels. Sans actual testing of the mussels, girlfriend can’t also make precise causal inference. What friend really have actually is a correlation, although, depending on how shortly after eating the mussels you obtain sick, a causal inference definitely might it is in reasonable!

So, what you understand is you got sick and also you are pretty certain that it to be the mussels, if not very sure. But that is every you know. You don’t recognize it to be an unopened mussel unless for some odd factor you ate one unopened mussel and also no various other mussels, or a bunch the unopened mussels. That is not likely. Therefore, you have no genuine reason for blaming the unopened mussel, the end of every the other mussels, other than prior beliefs.

And yet regardless of this, i still don’t blame friend if you litter away your unopened mussels. I am no providing any kind of guarantees the you will constantly be safe if you carry out not litter away unopened mussels. How might I? Mussels can be bad at any type of time. Her decisions about food-safety, and mussel safety, space yours and yours alone. This write-up is noted for details purposes and also you should weigh this and any other info you might find, in bespeak to concerned your very own decisions around how come prepare and cook mussels, clams, and also other bivalves. (Additional sources: 9Smith, Hugh, Commissioner. “Annual Report that the Commissioner that Fisheries.” 10 Rosenau, M. J., George Chandler Whipple, and also Thomas W. Salmon. “Chp 3: animal Foods: Shellfish.” preventive Medicine and also Hygiene,. New York: D. Appleton and, 1917. 565-67. 11Baier, Ingrid, and also Holland Gidney. Fish On: Seafood Dishes that Make a Splash. : TouchWood Editions, 2010. 31. 12 Meyer, K. F. “Mussel Poisoning in California.” Biennial Report: California. Dept. Of windy Health, California State board of health 1929. 82-83. 13 United states Naval clinical Bulletin. January, 1911. 379. 14Various other files from the at an early stage 1900’s.)