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advice about eating mussels

When I lived in Maine, I was told that you shouldn't eat mussels that don't open when they are cooked, because that indicates that the mussel was dead before it was cooked. My husband disregards this rule, and so far he is still alive. Is this just an old wive's tale or is there good reason to avoid unopened mussels?

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  1. Mussels are cheap, why risk getting sick? Maybe your husband has been lucky and hasn't come across a mussel that hasn't been dead for long but the day he does I'll bet he never eats an unopened mussel again.

    8 Replies
    1. re: KTinNYC

      I second KT, I've always heard that the mussel didn't open because it was dead, and if your hubby eats one that has been dead a while, he may be following up his meal with a trip to the hospital!

      1. re: ideabaker

        Thanks for your replies. The hubby has survived and is still fine (more than 24 hours so far since he ate four of the dead ones), but now maybe he will believe me.

        1. re: henri cat

          btw, it's not just mussels. the rule applies to all bivalves.

          1. re: henri cat

            Ha ha, you have a strong husband :-). Just read that some of the bivalves don't open because the heat wasn't enough to cook them all the way open (strong bivalves?) so that would be another thing to consider, in terms of bacteria...

            1. re: ideabaker

              That's how i tell they are done. As the bivalves (clams, mussels) open I pluck them from the pan. No open, no eat.

            2. re: ideabaker

              I third ... if they don't open they are dead. But he has been lucky. Recently a friend cooked them and he didn't knows about that. He was very sick and ended up in the hospital. He never cooked them before so he just didn't think there was anything wrong.

              Don't take chances as KT said, mussels are cheap

              1. re: ideabaker

                This is a myth. See the article cited way down at the bottom. So much misinformation!

            3. Let me must say that I am one of those people who ate a mussel that didn't open. Once. Once is more than enough. I worshiped the porcelain god for 2 days. Cold sweat, the shakes, along with vomiting as well. I was in bed for 4 days, and really did not feel right for almost 2 weeks. I barely ate anything. My daily diet consisted of a can of Campbells chicken noodle soup, water, and some Gatorade. After about 5 days, I was able to add a grilled cheese sandwich to my daily intake.
              Trust me, if you have ever been sick from mussels, you will remember it. I adore mussels, but did not eat them for 3 years after I got sick. Now I am fanatical about cleaning them properly, and always discard any with broken shells or those that do not open.
              Worst part about this was though I barely ate anything for 2 weeks, I didn't lose one bloody pound. Really, there is no God, is there?

              2 Replies
              1. re: mschow

                mschow, I feel your pain... being sick like that is no joke, especially when you don't even lose a pound after all that effort! Your post is an extra reason why I will continue to skip the unopened bivalves!

                1. re: mschow

                  ... you mentioned paying homage to the porcelain one. I don't think it can grant weight loss wishes, no matter how close it is to the scale.

                2. I've eaten ones that did not open but looked OK. Never had a problem. I'm an aficionado and have gathered and gorged on them on the Maine coast

                  Favorite way to cook is carefully grilled on charcoal to loose as little mussel juice as possible. Dip in olive oil that has had a little salt and cayenne added - And eat

                  1. Apparently your husband loves playing Russian Roulette! The risk is not worth the cost of losing.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Caroline1

                      Henri, triple hubbie's life insurance.

                    2. I've heard all those stories about not eating mussels that don't open as they might make you sick. Then I started working in hospitality. The rule in the kitchen is, if they don't open when you cook 'em, open 'em with a knife. If they're look all wrinkly and shriveled they're not safe to eat. If however they are juicy and plump (but the shell just didn't open) they are safe to eat. I've lived by that for years and not once have i been sick (or felt even slightly ill).
                      Happy eating folks.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: orourkemeister

                        I guess unopened but plump means they are "freshly dead" like in The Princess Bride.