Throw a Mussel on the Barbie


One of the easiest ways to prepare live mussels is to cook them right in their shells on an outdoor grill. Use any variety--New Zealand greenshell mussels are pictured (the meat of these female mussels is deep apricot; the males, soft cream).

Live mussels normally open slightly to breathe; however, any that are wide open and don’t shut or move when agitated are dying or dead and should be discarded. If serving mussels as an entree, purchase a pound per person.

Rinse the mussels with cold water but avoid submerging them or they’ll drown. To store the mussels for a few hours before cooking, place them in a colander, cover with a towel, then ice. Set the colander in a bowl or pan to catch the water from the melting ice.


Just before cooking, remove the byssus or “beard” by pulling from the tip to the hinge (Step 1). If it’s too tough to break with your fingers, cut away with scissors.

Place the mussels in an even layer three to four inches above hot coals (Step 2). Cook, turning once, until the shells open wide--three to five minutes--and the meat pulls away from the shell (Step 3). Avoid overcooking; remove as the shells open, allowing others more time on the grill. Serve with melted butter.