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I bought 1/2 pound of mussels and cooked them in a cast iron skillet with a little white wine and some shrimp stock on boiling heat.

Almost all of them opened after about 15 minutes, some did not. The ones that opened were done perfectly, and those were the ones I served.

Still, in the future - should I just throw away the rest, or would a few more minutes in the skillet be in order?

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Man .. I shouldn't get on this site before lunch! –  tomjedrz Jul 16 '10 at 20:14
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www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2008/10/29/2404364.htm Check out this site, it will debunk the myth about throwing away mussels that do not open. They are safe to eat. –  John Jun 6 '12 at 6:37
    
The primary source is the report Improving post harvest handling to add value to farmed mussels, by Nick Ruello, ISBN 0-9577695-12. It contains quite a bit of detail in the appendices, including specific advice to restaurateurs. –  Peter Taylor Jun 6 '12 at 12:42
    
15 minutes? Sounds like about ten minutes too long to me. Is it because you are using a skillet (without lid?) and not a pot? –  citizen Sep 11 '12 at 20:29
    
@citizen Yes, the skillet (even though I pre-heated) is quite heavy and takes a bit more time to get up to temperature (I had recently purchased it prior to asking this question, and was still getting used to it). Once it's hot, 5 - 7 minutes is generally all it takes, even in a pan uncovered (closer to 7 uncovered). –  Tim Post May 6 at 14:45

5 Answers 5

up vote 22 down vote accepted

You should throw them out. Mussels that don't open were quite possibly dead and decomposing for an unknown period of time prior to cooking. You don't want to take a chance here.

Just in case future readers don't know, mussels, clams, and other in-shell shellfish are still alive when you buy them, and they should be still alive when you cook them.

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+1 - I concur. If the fraction of dead mussels was significant, I would go complain to the place they were purchased. –  tomjedrz Jul 16 '10 at 20:14
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I agree tomjedrz. You should also be using them the same day of purchase, and keep them on ice in the refrigerator until they are ready. –  hobodave Jul 16 '10 at 20:16
    
Agreed. You really don't want to risk eating off mussels. –  Joel in Gö Jul 16 '10 at 20:42
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You can keep the mussels in salt water in the fridge for some days, but not too long. Take out the dead ones immediately. The dead ones don't close when touched. –  BaffledCook Sep 13 '11 at 21:43
    
Before you throw them out see abc.net.au/science/articles/2008/10/29/2404364.htm –  TFD Jan 22 '13 at 8:09

In the future, I would recommend the following: When washing the mussels before cooking, if any are slightly open try gently closing them. If they react by snapping closed themselves or they stay shut, it means the mussels are alive and well. If instead they react by immediately popping back open, throw them out (they are dead). I've found that the majority of the dead mussels are slightly open before cooking; they rarely are completely, tightly closed. Using this method, when you actually cook the mussels, you have a reasonably good idea that they are all alive and therefore safe to eat, regardless of whether or not they open all the way during cooking. After cooking there will likely be none that are closed, but if there are, there will likely be few and you can discard them if you like.

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When mussels don't open when cooked, it means that they were dead before you cooked them. Don't eat them you risk becoming very very sick.

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As far as I know, if you spray fresh live mussels with cold water they will open slightly. If they don't open, throw them out.

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A friend of mine (professional cook) told met to steam mussels extra hot, lid closed. In about 5' they should be open and done. They are done when they open. Don't leave them cooking any longer than necessary as they'll toughen up.

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