Mussels have all have ‘beards’ and need to be debearded before cooking and using in recipes. The ‘beards’ are the byssus of the mussels, which are filaments the mussels use to attach themselves to substrates and surfaces. The beards should be removed just prior to using the mussels.

  1. Pick through and discard any mussels that are broken or damaged, or mussels that are open – all mussels should be tightly closed.
  2. Place the mussels in a pot of fresh water. Soak for about 20 minutes. They will self filter to expel sand inside the shell. Note that not all sand may be removed.
  3. Pick up a mussel. Grasp the beard (actual byssal threads) and pull hard. Some may need to be scraped off with a knife, and some may pull off more easily. Threads may be gripped with a kitchen towel for better leverage. As the beards are cleaned from the mussels, scrub off any barnacles or heavy clumps of sand still attached to the mussels.
  4. Rinse again, and place in a clean bowl. Repeat with remaining mussels until they are all cleaned.
John’s motto is ‘release it unharmed or do it justice on the plate.’ Executive Chef, photographer, and surfer, John photographs ocean marine life when he’s out fishing, and creates masterpieces in the kitchen with what he keeps on deck. His photo works have been used in OEHHA Fish Advisories, National Geographic presentations, and nonprofit marine life groups. When he’s not fishing, he’s making great BBQ. Visit him at, and send him a message using the contact form using the link above.