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Sometimes when you buy mussels, you find that they taste sort of rancid or at least not very fresh, even if they are alive (or at least closed).

How can the taste get so bad if they still are alive? And how can you tell at the supermarket or fish monger?

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If they're alive, they're fresh and shouldn't taste bad unless they're contaminated. Perhaps it would help to tell us where you buy them and how you cook them. –  Carey Gregory Sep 20 '12 at 0:31
    
I have only recently started to eat mussels, but when I'm buying them at a good quality fish monger, they are fresh and delicious. When I'm buying them at the supermarket, they don't taste fresh at all. Applies to both farmed and wild mussels (blue mussels). –  citizen Sep 20 '12 at 13:29
    
@CareyGregory: That's what I would think as well, but if that is the case, then a) are the bad tasting mussels dead, but still closed? or b) what could it be contiminated with, or c) can we prove that this is true (that live always equals fresh) or is it false? –  citizen Sep 20 '12 at 13:35
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If they were closed when purchased and then they opened when cooked, they were alive. And alive is, by definition, as fresh as it gets. I suppose, however, that they could be "barely alive" and that may affect taste. In grocery stores, I would expect most of them have been out of the water for days. –  Carey Gregory Sep 20 '12 at 14:37
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1 Answer

Always check that most of the mussels are alive when you buy them.

Check that the shells are not broken, and that they are wet.

At your house, throw away all the dead mussels and process as soon as possible.

Cook (steam) as fast and as furious as you can for no more than two minutes. At that point, the mussels should have opened and nearly done.

Overcooking can produce a rubbery texture and spoil the taste.

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It was too long for a comment, but I'm not sure this answers the question. –  BaffledCook Sep 19 '12 at 22:57
    
Yes, I know how to cook them, but the bad mussels smell even when uncooked, so it's not the cooking process that gives them the bad taste. –  citizen Sep 20 '12 at 13:33
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the rule with seafood is, if it smells bad, you shouldn't be eating it. Fresh seafood smells slightly briney and not fishy. –  sarge_smith Sep 22 '12 at 7:52
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