Can You Cook Broken Mussels?

You’re probably extremely excited to cook if you’ve recently purchased fresh mussels at the fish market or grocery store. However, you might notice that some of the mussels are broken. Now, this might have you wondering if you can cook broken mussels?

Don’t cook mussels with broken, cracked, or chipped shells. These mussels are dead, and there’s no telling if they are still safe to eat. In addition, seafood spoils quickly and can cause you to become fatally ill. Discard mussels with broken shells and ensure you have fresh mussels.

In addition to broken mussels, there are other signs to look for that indicate the mussels are dead and unsafe to consume. Therefore, this article discusses how to identify fresh mussels, which mussels you shouldn’t cook, and how to clean and cook mussels properly.

Why Shouldn’t You Cook Broken Mussels?

When preparing seafood, you must use the freshest seafood available. Frozen seafood is frozen while still fresh, so it should be safe to eat if you bought it at a reputable store. However, always check the best before date to ensure the seafood is still safe to eat. Also, ensure the seafood isn’t spoilt when you defrost it before cooking.

When using fresh mussels, you must buy the mussels while they are still alive. As soon as the mussels die, they will start to decompose, and eating dead mussels can make you fatally ill. Therefore, ensure the mussels are alive and fresh before cooking them.

When a mussel’s shell is broken, chipped, or cracked, there is a good chance that the mussel is dead. In this case, you cannot cook or consume the broken mussel because it can make you sick. Therefore, before cooking the mussels, remove any mussels with broken shells from the batch and discard them.

In addition to checking for broken, chipped, or cracked mussels, there are other signs that the mussels are dead and shouldn’t be cooked or consumed. This is what you should consider when you purchase mussels.

  • Live mussels smell fresh and like the ocean. If the mussels have a fishy smell, they are likely dead and shouldn’t be eaten.
  • Fresh mussels are kept on ice when you buy them. However, if the ice has melted and the mussels look dry and withered, don’t buy them as they can already be decomposing.
  • Fresh mussels keep their shells closed. Open ones will close when you tap them lightly. If the mussels don’t close, they are dead and shouldn’t be eaten.

Apart from these signs, if you notice any other signs that the mussel might be off, discard them and ensure the rest of the batch hasn’t been contaminated. Never cook mussels you suspect are dead or off, as spoilt seafood can be deadly.

It’s best to use the mussels on the same day you purchase or harvest them. However, they can be stored in the fridge for up to 48 hours. Ask the fish monger to show you when the mussels were harvested before storing them so you know they are still fresh.

To store the mussels, store them on ice or in salt water (or ocean water) and keep them in the coldest part of the fridge. When you are ready to prepare and cook them, remove the mussels from the refrigerator and recheck them to ensure they are fresh.

Discard any broken, cracked, chipped, or open mussels. Sometimes the mussels get damaged during transport, and although you bought them fresh, you still cannot cook or eat broken mussels.

How To Prepare And Cook Mussels

Once you have established that your mussels are fresh, you can prepare them for cooking. Mussels are easy to prepare and cook. However, you may have grit-filled inedible mussels if you don’t follow the correct steps. Therefore, it’s essential to follow the below steps.

Step 1: Check The Mussels

As mentioned before, before cooking the mussels, you must first ensure that they are still alive and fresh. Although you bought fresh mussels, some might have died while they were stored or transported. Therefore, recheck the mussels and discard any dead mussels.

Step 2: Scrub The Mussel Shells

The next step is to scrub the mussel shells. This will remove any sand, grit, and barnacles from the shells. This will also help to ensure that there isn’t any sand or unpleasantries in your dish. Scrub the mussels using a stiff brush.

Step 3: Soak The Mussels

After scrubbing the mussels, place them in a container filled with salt water or seawater. As the mussels breathe in the water, they purge the sand from their bellies and the inside of their shells. You can soak the mussels for a few hours or overnight and exchange the water at least once while soaking them.

Remove them from the water with a slotted spoon when the mussels have finished soaking. Don’t turn the bowl over in the sink, as this will cause the sand to fall on the mussel shells again.

Step 4: Debeard The Mussels

Now you can debeard the mussels. The mussel beards are a group of greenish-black fibers that stick out from the front of the mussel. While these fibers aren’t harmful, they are unpleasant to eat and ruin your dish.

To remove the beards, hold the mussel securely. Then, using a cloth or your fingers, tightly grip the beard and give it a tug toward the hinged side of the shell. The beard should come out of the shell without damaging the mussel meat.

Step 5: Cook The Mussels

Now that the mussels are prepped and ready, you can cook them. Steaming is one of the best and easiest ways to cook mussels. To steam the mussels, add them to a pot with stock liquid, white wine, or water. Then, place a lid on the pot and steam the mussels until they open. This should take between three and five minutes.

Remove the mussels from the pot to prevent overcooking. Discard any mussels that did not open after about eight minutes. Serve the mussels with the cooking liquid and fresh bread.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Now that we have explained why you shouldn’t cook mussels with broken shells, how to determine if mussels are fresh, and how to prepare and cook them, you might still have other questions about mussels. To save you the trouble of further research, we have included some of the most commonly asked questions about mussels.

1. Can You Eat A Raw Mussel If The Shell Is Broken?

Never eat mussels with a broken shell. These mussels are dead and can already be decomposing, which will cause you to become gravely ill. Whether raw or cooked, mussels in broken shells are not safe to consume.

2. Is It Safe To Eat Raw Mussels?

You can eat raw mussels if they are fresh and alive. However, we recommend only eating mussels raw on the same day they are harvested. Ensure the mussels are fresh before eating them raw, and eat them as soon as you open them to prevent spoilage.


Never eat mussels with a broken shell. These mussels are dead and therefore unsafe to cook or eat. Ensure the mussels are alive and fresh before cooking them. Store the live mussels in the coldest part of the fridge before cooking them, and discard any mussels in broken, chipped, or cracked shells.