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cleaning mussels; no beards?

I'm cleaning mussels and no beards are showing. These are farm raised and are nice size and most are alive, but they aren't showing their beards after about a 15 minutes soak in cool water. Will they be all beardy in my nice wine broth after I cook them? ewwww

asked by rlucido over 4 years ago
6 answers 5479 views
Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

added over 4 years ago

I find that farmed mussels rarely have much in the way of beards. I think you're safe.

added over 4 years ago

thank you! They are quite clean, otherwise as well.


While Peter no longer works for Food52 he still thinks up ways to make the website better.

added over 4 years ago

No beards is no problem. And in general, my understanding is that you don't need or want to soak mussels.


Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking

added over 4 years ago

If your mussels had beards, you would see them right away--on the outside of the shell. It used to be that most of the mussels that people ate in the U.S. were collected from the wild. Wild mussels grow in groups and attached to rocks, other hard substrates, and each other. The threads that attached them to the substrate, including other mussels, are what we cooks call beards. Besides the beards, those wild mussels had a lot of other things to clean up--seaweeds, barnacles, and other animals attached themselves to the mussels. Little crabs might be crawling in among them. In some places, populations of pea crabs lived inside the mussels, so they couldn't be cleaned out. You had to learn to think of them as a little bonus, a little crunch.

Today's farmed mussels are much cleaner to start with, and the processing they undergo before sale usually eliminates the need for much cleaning. They also have no need for soaking. For one, even wild-caught mussels don't tend to accumulate a lot of sand. And for two, no self-respecting marine mussel opens up in fresh water and filters anything out. If they open, they probably don't filter much. More usually, they'd detect that fresh water and just clam up until you got onto the next step with the wine broth.

added over 4 years ago

Don't worry if your mussels are cleancut. If they had beards, you would have seen them immediately.


pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

added over 4 years ago

And for what it's worth, farm raised mussels are one of the best examples of healthy, sustainable aquaculture. Unlike say, Frankensalmon.