What texture should fresh mussel have?

Does mushy mussels mean they are bad? What causes this mushy texture: cooking or quality of the mussels?

  • Welcome marty to Seasoned Advice, I made several minor edits to your question to improve the format of the question. If you feel I have change or strayed from the original meaning of your question, feel free to edit it farther by using the edit button under the question tags.
    – Jay
    Commented Apr 21, 2013 at 5:23

4 Answers 4


Assuming your mussels came from clean, unpolluted waters, there is mainly only one thing that determines the quality of mussels: Freshness.

For all shellfish, this means alive when you buy them and alive when you cook them. Their shells should be tightly closed when you buy them, or they should close when you tap them.

Mushiness doesn't mean much. Shellfish are kind of mushy in their most perfect condition.

  • Correct! Fresh means they are either closed when you buy them, or open but they shut when you tap them. When you cook them, they will open their shells to try and cool themselves off. No open shell at the end of cooking means they were dead to start, and probably not safe to eat. If you harvest them yourself, take one of them from the cluster and cut it open, and see if there is red-orange goop in the digestive tract. If there is, discard all of them. Harmful algae can kill you (whoi.edu/redtide).
    – Matthew
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 17:50
  • The not opening thing has been discredited, there has been plenty of recent studies showing this NOT to be the case. A bit of Googling should correct this
    – TFD
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 22:59
  • @TFD I've been convinced you're right that the opening thing has been discredited, so I've deleted that statement from the answer. Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 23:42

Massive misinformation thrown around here!! The only way to detect a bad mussel is by smell alone. The whole "opening" thing is an old wives tale.

  • 1
    If you're going to make assertions like that, backing it up with something more than your opinion would be good. Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 14:06
  • 2
    @CareyGregory To be fair, you didn't back up your post with sources either. I found this with a quick search: abc.net.au/science/articles/2008/10/29/2404364.htm#.Ucm9qBqJD4w which suggests that there may be some truth to this - yes, it's bad if they open early, but if they don't open at all, they're fully cooked and it likely just means the muscles didn't loosen up and let the shell open.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 16:00
  • What does this have to do with mushiness? Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 13:23
  • Gianni referred to this answer in an older version of the edit of his answer, please regard it as addressing this answer too.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 15:27
  • 1
    +1 for educating me on the floating thing. But since that flies in the face of accepted wisdom, a citation really would have made for a much better answer. Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 23:49

Mushy is not fresh - smell it and see if it has a rancid odor after its cooked. it should be chewy.

The floaters are not necessarily dead. I had 20 floaters and as they opened to purge then they sank. I'm glad I didn't follow the comment to toss them out - they just needed to purge and sank down otherwise I would have tossed out almost 2 lbs of mussels.


I'm buying the mussels in nurseries, so I am sure of their freshness. Sometimes it happens that some of them are closed, though showing life with serious consequences for the recipe, so I do this: I put in the water, I throw away all those that float, I clean well those remaining, then if I have to open them to check if the smell experience is good, I also assure you that inside there is the mud that the mussel is used to have, made ​​these devices continue with my recipe. I know it takes time but I assure you that after I can enjoy my spaghetti with mussels.

Edit in response to user18923's answer

I repeat, if the mussels float in the water (WHEN YOU WASHING) are definitely throw because it is very likely indeed it is certain that within them there is more water that keeps her alive, so if you want to risk the recipe one is free to do so, but as to the misinformation that you say, I think that actually you never opened more than 10 mussels. I'm not saying that they are not inedible, but it is better throw. I personally eat them raw every week at sea, but I try in every way to eat those that are good for my experience.

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    – Aaronut
    Commented Apr 21, 2013 at 13:11
  • 1
    What does this have to do with mushiness? Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 13:22

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