Eating mussels is a delight, but why don’t more of you eat fresh mussels at home? There is always trepidation to the uninitiated about how to clean mussels, remove the beard! What’s going on? Do the mussels have beards? If you get past the cleaning part, it’s the amount of mussels sold in net bags, and there can be too many for one person to eat.
Did you know it is thought that humans have been eating mussels for the past 20,000 years? Every day a single mussel filters 20 liters of water. They keep the oceans, lakes, and creeks clean water.
This article will explore how to keep mussels to maximize their shelf life. We answer many frequently asked questions about the best techniques for storing mussels, how to freeze them, and for how long.
Let’s dive in.
Do mussels expire?
Yes. It’s the number one question about mussels, and the answers vary, so let’s get into it and provide you with factual information.
Mussels do expire, but it depends on the time of the year and when the mussels were harvested. In all cases, without exception, if you have a net of mussels, you should eat them as soon as possible, within a day or two of purchasing them for the best quality and flavor of the mussels.
Mussels harvested in the summer months have a shorter shelf life. Even so, the mussel will last eight days in the fridge, which is longer than most of you would have expected. Mussels harvested in the winter last for a whopping 17 days in the fridge.
In both cases, it is advisable to consume the mussels within at least six days of purchase and before, if possible.
Of course, you will need to check to see if the mussels are alive. Mussels stored in the fridge tend to gape (shells open). Tap the mussel, and it will close if it’s alive, but keep in mind they are less responsive in the cold, so give them a few seconds before passing judgment and declaring them dead.
If the mussel does remain open, that is the time to remove and discard the other mussels.
At this point, it’s while checking the mussels that it is worthwhile cleaning them. Place the mussels in a colander and rinse them with cold water. Remove the beard, it is not actually a beard, but the name has stuck. The beard is a filament that is extremely sticky and anchors itself to rocks.
Do mussels need to be refrigerated?
Yes. Raw and cooked mussels will only have a shelf life of 2 hours outside the fridge. If you keep mussels out of the fridge, they will die quickly and become loaded with bacteria.
To refrigerate fresh mussels, it’s imperative that they sit on ice but not in water. You will need to place ice on a tray that can drain. A fine mesh or a tray with a drain hole is ideal, so when the ice melts, it can drain into a capture bowl and not flood the fridge.
Fresh mussels can be covered with damp paper or a damp cloth. Under these conditions in the fridge, it is reasonable to assume the mussels will last for at least two days and still be alive after five days.
Again it will depend on the time of year they are being harvested.
Eating mussels as soon as you have them at home is always excellent advice for the best quality.
Cooked muscles will last for 3 to 4 days. But like any other mussels, they are best eaten as soon as they are cooked to retain freshness. Store cooked mussels in a shallow container and cover them with foil or cling wrap in the fridge.
Do the mussels have to be covered?
The idea is to try and keep the mussel damp. The fridge is a dry environment, which you can guess is not ideal for mussels, but covering fresh mussels with a damp tea towel or damp newspaper will provide enough moisture for the mollusks to survive.
Cooked mussels can be wrapped tightly in a shallow container. It keeps the mussels from absorbing intense aromas like onion or garlic from the fridge.
Can you put warm mussels in the fridge?
Mussels are tiny and lose their heat very quickly, so let them come to room temperature before paling them in the fridge.
It’s never a good idea to place warm food in the fridge. It can be problematic if the fridge temperature elevates to over 40°F. At 40 to 140℉, the food is sitting in the danger zone, meaning that the growth of bacteria is significant between these temperatures and could lead to food poisoning.
How long can mussels sit out?
Two hours. Cooked or uncooked, the same principles apply to mussels. If the food is sitting in the food danger zone, then the bacterial growth will be substantial and could make the food poisonous to eat if left out for two hours.
According to the USDA, any perishable product has a shelf life of two hours sitting out before it becomes inedible and potentially dangerous to consume due to the proliferation of bacteria. These foods should be discarded.
How long do mussels last in the fridge?
It will depend on the time of the year they are harvested. It is reasonable to expect freshly harvested mussels to last in the fridge for five days.
However, they will need to be stirred correctly to achieve the shelf life. You can follow the instructions on the net of mussels or store them on ice covered with a damp towel or newspaper.
Cooked mussels stored correctly in a shallow container wrapped and secured in the fridge will last three to four days.
Do frozen mussels go bad?
In theory, frozen foods have an indefinite shelf life stored at 0℉, but for mussels, it’s a lot shorter than indefinite, it’s more like six months, and it is recommended that they are consumed before the six months.
Mussels are delicate and need to be stored correctly before they are frozen.
Here is a step-by-step guide to freezing mussels. Note that this process is recommended within two days of receiving your mussels.
Guide to freezing mussels
- You need freezer bags. Put the fresh mussels in a heavy-duty sealable bag like a Ziploc. Ziplocs are suitable for storing mussels. While filling the sealable bag, check for open shells, tap, and discard them.
- Use portion control for bagging the mussels. Leave space at the top of the bag, and don’t overfill. This will cause problems such as freezer burn. Remove the air from the bag by gently sliding your hand across the bag to dispel the air. It will prevent waste.
- At this point, let’s double-bag the mussels. Seal the bag tightly to prevent air from getting into the bag. The shells can be sharp, and if it pierces the inner bag, the mussels will be spoiled.
- Mark the bag with the freezing date and place it in the freezer.
- Store your mussels for up to three months.
Freezing will kill the mussels, but they are protected, so when they are thawed, there will not be any opening and closing of the shells. Some people find this disconcerting, but they are perfectly preserved at this point.
Freezing cooked mussels
- Wrap cooked mussels in aluminum foil and place the foil in a freezer-proof sealable bag.
- Place the bag into an airtight container. A Tupperware or similar will be perfect.
- Ensure that all containers are sealed tightly.
- Mark the packaging with freezer dates.
- You can store cooked mussels for up to six months.
Cooked mussels can be stored in the fridge for three days before freezing. Although the mussels should extend the six-month freezing period, the mussels will be of better quality if consumed earlier in the freezing process.
How do you thaw mussels?
With fresh mussels, you can go straight from the freezer to the pot and cook from frozen or steamed. The process takes a little longer, so ensure the mussels are cooked thoroughly.
Alternatively, you can place the mussels on a platter in the fridge and let them thaw overnight. They should be good in the fridge for a few days before cooking if you wish, but it is always best to thaw and cook for the best quality mussels.
Thawing cooked mussels is easy. Place them in the fridge overnight. They will be thawed by morning. Cooked mussels can sit in the fridge for three days before consuming but are best eaten when thawed.
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Mussels are beautiful to eat, and they are easy to cook and freeze. The shelf life of this delicate mollusk is as short as you might have thought.
You can discount the horror stories you hear about mussels. They are not valid. Fresh muscles can be stored in the fridge for 4 to 5 days and cooked for 3 to 4 days.
Mussels can be frozen for three months if fresh and six months if cooked.
Mussels are always going to taste better if eaten fresh.