By Vanessa Allison

Mussels are an excellent source of protein and leaner than beef, making them beneficial to your diet. When cooked, the shells of the mussels will pop open, making it easy to access the edible meat. Mussels are eaten steamed, sauteed, baked or grilled. Like oysters and clams, they are served in their shells atop salads or pasta dishes or garnished on the half-shell as an appetizer.

Mussels are shellfish cousins to oysters and clams.

Step 1

Buy freshwater mussels from a source that harvests them legally and from unpolluted waters. When exposed to air, mussels close their shells; thus any air-exposed open mussel is dead. Purchase mussels alive, making sure the shells are closed and not chipped.

Step 2

Discard any open or chipped mussels. Using cold water, scrub the mussels free of all dirt, barnacles and other impurities. Remove the beard—the hairy skirts—from each mussel either by gripping and pulling them or with a sharp knife.

Step 3

Cook the mussels in a saucepan, in the oven or on a grill. Discard any unopened shells. Add the mussels, in their shells, to your favorite soup, salad or linguine.

Step 4

Using a small fork, scrape the mussel meat from its shell. The mussel will detach easily from the shell with a slight pull of the fork. Discard empty shells.