For the record this is my first post here, so hopefully it is on topic I do mean the fishy kind, not the strongman kind:

I bought a kg of mussels but I have never cooked them before so I asked the guy in the shop, the basics and went back to cook them. However, I mistakenly chucked them in a simmering pot without checking and then realised that I need to pull the bits of stuff off them! I didn't want to take them back out in case they were still half alive or something so I have left them to cook.

I am wondering if it will be ok to cook them till they are cooked and then drain them, clean them and put them in some fresh water with some garlic and butter to cook again (straight away after that) or if I have foolishly missed my only chance to cook them properly. If the latter, can anyone advise on how I should have gone about it (I think I should have pulled the bits off - should I have rinsed them or would that be too cruel?)

I don't want to waste a kg of mussels but I preference this to food poisoning so experienced advice would be welcome! Thanks.

  • 1
    If by "the bits of stuff" you mean the beards, those tufts of tangled webbing outside the shell, they're harmless. Indigestible and tough as nylon, but otherwise harmless.
    – Beta
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 13:39
  • Yep that is the stuff I meant. I don't want my dinner to have them on though. Is it ok to do it after and then do all the flavour reheat?
    – Magpie
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 13:42

2 Answers 2


I am wondering if it will be ok to cook them till they are cooked and then drain them, clean them and put them in some fresh water with some garlic and butter to cook again...

Yes that should be fine, just make sure you discard any shells that have not opened by the end of cooking as those are dead ones.

Here's a nice recipe for moules marinières, mussels cooked with butter, white wine, shallots, cream and herbs which also explains how to de-beard them.


Short answer: It is safe, although by far the predominant practice is to remove them before cooking.

This is, of course, assuming the "bits of stuff" you refer to are the beards of the mussels, which they use to attach themselves to their growth substrate.

According to ISSC, International Shellfish Safety Conference, you can leave the beards attached if you wish (emphasis added):


Mussels should be scrubbed with a stiff brush or coarse sponge and rinsed with cold water to remove any debris. Beards can be removed or left attached.

Lesser quality sources concur:

According to Blue Ocean Mussels, you can remove the beards after cooking--assuming the bits of stuff you refer to are the beards.

According to Yahoo answers, its safe but I give them little credence.

Here is one article at The Kitchn describing how to prepare mussels and clean them, with photos, in case it helps in the future. They also note, by the way:

The beard isn't harmful or inedible (just not particularly desirable to our taste buds), so don't fret if there are a few little threads left that you can't grasp.

  • but can I re-cook once i remove them? I dont want to waste the flavours on smeggy water you see...
    – Magpie
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 13:57
  • 1
    I don't speak British, but I am not sure I would want anything at all to do with anything "smeggy". :-) You can but they would probably become tough and unpalatable and overcooked. Given the science of what the beards are they are pretty non-reactive. I would flavor, then clean then beards in the kitchen, then present all in the one go. But you will have gained valuable experience for your next mussel-ly adventure.
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 14:00
  • haha don't worry, it is one of those terms that has become pretty detached from its original meaning. I think my muscles are ruined I try pulling the beads and the rest of the muscle comes away with it :(
    – Magpie
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 14:29
  • Sorry you had bad luck--I am sure much was learned.
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 14:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.