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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. Sep 20, 2012 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, 2012 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, 2012 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. Sep 20, 2012 at 14:37

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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. Sep 19, 2012 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, 2012 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. Sep 22, 2012 at 7:52

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