How to Cook Mussels without fail – Use Chardonnay for extra Flavour

By | September 30, 2015


Have you ever tried cooking mussels? Then you will know that you will need to follow some basic rules in order to be successful. Stick to the guidelines below and you will not fail.

Mussels are best eaten fresh. They spoil quickly so be careful when buying and look carefully at the date printed on the packaging. Transport them preferably in a cool bag or box. Before using keep them in their packaging in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. cooking mussels

The art of perfectly cooking mussels is the (short) cooking time. There are recipes that specify that mussels should be cooked 8, 10 minutes or even longer. That could be too long and basically lead to a culinary disaster – changing the mussels from a delicacy into small rubber balls. Therefore do not let mussels cook as any dish (such as soup), but add them at the last minute of the preparation. 

Read all about how to cook mussels without fail and follow the handy tips to do so. Give them an extra dimension by cooking them with dry white wine, preferably Chardonnay that is best suited for this dish.

Ingredients for 4 plates

Two kilograms of fresh mussels;  a normal fresh mussel portion of two kilo contains about 150 mussels and produces approximately 400 grams of cooked mussels.

1 small onion

6 sprigs of celery

2 shallots

1 clove of garlic

2 thyme sprigs (each about five centimetres)mussel cooking

20 g parsley

A pinch of pepper/salt

25 g of salted butter

250 ml dry white wine (any Chardonnay will do fine)

200 ml crème fraîche (soured cream)

Preparation time: 20 minutes.

Preparing of the mussels

Rinse the mussels a few times in a (washing) tank with increasingly clean, cold water until the sand is out and do the next mussels in a (washing) tank with plenty of cold water (necessary to check the mussels, open mussels will close now).

mussel cookingBrush the mussels one by one under cold running water and if necessary pull the beards (the hairy-looking strings) off the mussels – during this work, throw away the ‘bad ones’ and doubtful ones.


1)  All mussels with closed shells and a normal weight are good.

2) Unusually heavy mussels (closed-shell) should be thrown away – be it ‘sand clams “or” mud mussels (no mussel is inside; they are, as the name suggests, full of dirty sand).

3) Tap several times with the back of a spoon on mussels that are open, until they are closing (takes a while); if they are not closing the mussel is dead and it must be thrown out.

4) Broken mussels – always throw out immediately. 

5) If the packaging of the mussels indicates that they are ‘ready to cook’, it is still advisable to check them out, because sometimes there is a surprising lot of sand in the package. One good rinse with cold water is usually sufficient and brushing can be omitted.

6) If you prepare the mussels several hours in advance, ensure that the mussels are put back in the refrigerator again.

Vegetablesmussel cooking

Wash the parsley, thyme and celery. 

Cut the onion, garlic, shallots and celery leaves into very small pieces. 

Put the white wine with the onion, thyme, garlic, celery and shallots in the large pan. You should use a very large pan (5-6 liters) because for cooking mussels you want to get an even result.

Boiling process

After the vegetable broth starts to boil, cover the pan with a lid and let it simmer for 5 minutes.

After five minutes, put the mussels in with the hot vegetables; fill the pan but to no more than a third of its capacity, as open shells take much more space than solid ones and the mussels must be able to be easily swirled during cooking. If the pot does not fit all mussels then cook them in two sessions, where the second portion can be cooked in the same cooking water. 

Put the pan with the closed lid on the highest possible heat source and let it stay there for about 3 to 5 minutes until it boils. This moment can be checked because the lid will come up as a bit of steam is let off.

Once the contents boils take the pan from the heater and shake its contents. 

mussel cookingPut the pan back on the heat source and wait ten seconds or so. 

Open the pot and check, by shaking again, if all the shells are open:

– If so, then the mussels are ready

– If not, let them briefly continue cooking until all the shells have opened.


 It is normal that during cooking some mussels will fall out of the shells. 


Add the soured cream to the remaining cooking liquid. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Serve the mussels warm (in the shell) on a deep plate with a scoop of the strained cooking liquid.  Stir in the parsley and pour over the mussels.  Serve with French bread which will soak up the moisture. mussel cooking


Eat the mussels by hand; a shell can serve as a peg to extract the mussels from the shells. Put finger bowls on the table (or soup bowls with water) and do not forget the napkins. 


If you do not like the natural taste of mussels, then you will not like mussels at all, whichever way they are served.

Two notes

Mussels can be only frozen after cooking. Leftover cooked mussels can be stored in the freezer at – 20 ° C for maximum three months. 

Mussels are very healthy, but they contain (especially at the beginning of the mussel season) a lot of protein. Some people are allergic to them. Someone who has never eaten mussels and discovered how delicious they are should therefore never eat a lot when eating them the first time!

Myth or not?

You can get sick of mussels cooked too short.  

This is generally taken not true, as mussels (like oysters) can even be eaten raw. Furthermore, mussels protect themselves from cooking too short. Ever tried to open a mussel not cooked well? On the other hand, if a mussel is mussel cookingcooked well enough it will open easily.

According to a report dated 1996 of the Dutch National Institute for Health and the Environment, 5 to 20 percent of all mussels (and 2-10 percent of the oysters) have the chance of being infected with the pathogenic bacterium Campylobacter lari, however, cooking makes the bacteria harmless.  

The chance of becoming ill is in practice so small that raw mussels are still on the map of many (mussel) restaurants as a speciality.


Cooking mussels the right way is not as easy as it looks, but when you stick to the process as described above, you will have a sure way to success. The chances of getting sick are almost zero and mussels can even be eaten raw in some restaurants.mussel cooking

Cooking mussels with dry white wine will give you something extra and the recommended wine is Chardonnay, to which this site will give you access. Check out my reviews and ratings by clicking on the three images to the right (for mobile users just under this text) under the heading World best Chardonnays.

Feel free to ask questions and if you have any comments, leave them in the box and I will come back to you within 24 hours.

2 thoughts on “How to Cook Mussels without fail – Use Chardonnay for extra Flavour

  1. Branka

    Very nice recipe! It is true what you said about the process of cooking, it might be tricky. We made them on vacation by the sea, nice and fresh 🙂 but first we needed to clean them, scratch some stony algae from them with a knife and we bought 10 kilos.. it lasted forever.. but the dinner was delicious! Thank you for the recipe! You really made it step by step!

    1. Jerry Post author

      Thanks Branka, wow 10 kilos, in the end that would be 2 kilos of mussels only. You can feed 20 people with that! I really hope that you try my recipe in the future and of course use Chardonnay for the extra flavour! And if you do, please let me know afterwards how it went. Cheers, Jerry


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