Mussels are an interesting type of seafood since they are sometimes served with the shell, sometimes without it. So it is normal to ask yourself if it is safe to eat raw or undercooked mussels? Especially because other types of seafood are served, like salmon or tuna in sushi.
I can say that the smell of raw mussels is off-putting to me, but I’m sure there are people interested in giving them a try.
If you are one of those curious persons that want to try different types of food and you have raw mussels on your list, you are in the right place. I did a lot of research to come up with a good answer, and also, I will give you my opinion in this article about eating raw mussels or even undercooked mussels.
Can you eat raw mussels?
It is not safe to eat raw mussels or any kind of bivalve shellfish. While they accumulate nutrients from the ocean, they accumulate microorganisms (like Vibrio spp.)and pathogens that can be harmful to humans.
As with most types of food, by boiling or cooking the mussels, you expose them to high temperatures for enough time to kill all of those bacteria that are inside the food.
While some restaurants serve raw mussels, you must know that it takes a special type of marinade to make them safer to eat raw. So if you are not an expert in this domain and want to try them at home, it would be better not to take the risk.
Even after marinating them in a sauce with a strong acid like vinegar, it is NOT 100% safe to eat them raw. It will be best to avoid eating raw mussels no matter what. You don’t want to put yourself at risk for trying raw mussels that most probably will not taste as good as cooked ones anyway.
Can you eat undercooked mussels?
It is not safe to eat undercooked mussels since the bacteria inside can still be present and harmful to the human body.
You need to cook mussels at a temperature higher than 149 F (65 C) in order to destroy the Vibrio parahaemolyticus that is present in mussels and other types of shellfish.
Mussels don’t take a long time to be fully cooked. Usually, you need to place them in boiling water for around 5-7 minutes, but you have to check them to make sure they are done. The mussels must be completely opened when they are ready to be served. If there are a few mussels that are not open when the others are, you must discard them.
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Are frozen mussels raw or cooked?
Frozen mussels that you find on the market are partially cooked before being frozen for safety reasons. So in the case of cooking frozen mussels, you may need to cook them even less than it takes for fresh mussels.
You can freeze raw mussels as well, but it is not as safe as cooked ones because many things must be done right or well checked before freezing raw mussels.
If you plan to freeze raw mussels, you must check the shell to be fully closed without any cracks or weird smells.
How to buy good mussels?
If you want to have a great experience by eating mussels, you must buy them fresh. They are much better than the frozen ones. Of course, it can be impossible to find them fresh in some cases, and in that case, the frozen ones are good enough.
In case you can find fresh mussels, here are a few things you must check before buying them:
-The shell should be closed. Mussels should be alive when cooked, and the closed shell is the best sign that they are still alive. There are some cases when the shell is opened a bit, and if it closes again, it means that they are good, but for this, you have to check them for some time which is not doable when you are at the market ready to buy mussels.
-Intact shell. The shell should be intact without any cracks. The cracks in the shell are a sign that the mussels are dead and also are a sign that they were not properly transported. For me, the cracks on the shell of mussels are also a sign that the vendor doesn’t care too much about his customers since he should throw away the mussels that are not good.
-Smell. Mussels must have a salty ocean smell, so you must avoid them if they have a weird rotten smell.
-Mussels should be clean. While they are not so clean on the ocean, and at the moment they are picked up, most of the vendors will clean them before selling.
Make sure you check all those signs before you buy fresh mussels, not to be disappointed with their taste and texture. They can be quite expensive as other seafood, so it is better to make sure you buy the best of them.
How to eat mussels?
If the mussels are with shells in a seafood meal like paella, you must use the fork to get the meat out from the shells.
You most probably noticed that there is a black line that comes out of the mussels. While it is edible, I would recommend getting rid of it since it is the mussel intestines of a sort. There can be found the plankton that was still in the digestive system when the mussel was cooked. Now that you’ve read this, you most probably will discard it.
If you plan to eat mussels in pasta, make sure you add them later in the cooking process since they take little time to be completely cooked. And overcooked mussels can be chewy and tasteless.
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The conclusion is that it is not safe to eat raw or undercooked mussels, and most probably, it is not worth it as well since the taste and texture can be disappointing.
When it comes to cooking mussels, you must pay attention to not overcooking them, but at the same time, you will need to wait until they are open; otherwise, they can be undercooked.
When you plan to cook mussels, make sure you check the things above before buying them, and this way, you are most likely to enjoy them.
I hope this article helped you to know the risks of eating raw or undercooked mussels and how you are supposed to eat the cooked ones.