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Have come across this in quite a few recipes, that mussels need to be cleaned and de-bearded. First time cooking shellfish so just want to be sure I know what they're talking about. Thanks.

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The beard is also known as byssus threads. They are the filaments that the mussel uses to secure itself to hard surfaces. They are usually brownish and may appear somewhat like seaweed. Most mussels commercially available have been farm-raised so often the beards have already been removed during processing. If you have beards, grasp them firmly and pull towards the shell hinge until it comes out. You may need to use a dry paper towel to increase your grip as they can be slippery.

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    Firmly is right; it's important to pull slowly. Yanking will sometimes pull flesh out along with the beard. – jscs Mar 12 '15 at 20:43
  • Pliers can also work if you can't get a good grip : grab the beard with the pliers, then rotate the pliers so you slowly pull the beard away from the shell. – Joe Mar 14 '15 at 14:39
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De-bearding simply means removing the seaweed-like fibers found sticking out of the shell. Usually you can just pull it off/out with your fingers. This is less of an issue with farm raised mussels. I usually rinse and quickly take a look at each one, discarding broken mussels and de-bearding the ones that need it.

  • My edits should sufficiently answer the original question, since the OP did not ask for a definition of the beard, rather he or she wanted to know what the process meant. – moscafj Mar 13 '15 at 18:12
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    I agree that the question doesn't ask explicitly what the beard is but I still don't think it's a good thing to have factually incorrect answers. I also agree that your edit has fixed the problem so I've undone my downvote and removed my comment. – David Richerby Mar 13 '15 at 20:15

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