Mussels are one of the most common and popular seafood items out there. It’s not much of a surprise either. You can find them pretty much anywhere in the world as they grow quickly and they can grow on pretty much anything from ropes to rocks, to underwater pipelines. Also, they’re one of the best foods for the environment, as it has virtually no impact like other animal-based foods like beef, cheese, chicken, etc. Mussels are even thought to improve the water quality in the areas around them as they filter out excess nutrients in the water.
Since mussels are pretty much ubiquitous around the world, good for the environment, cheap to produce, tasty, and healthy there’s really no reason not to eat them. So, if you happen to buy a lot of mussels, I can’t blame you!
However, if you got a bit too excited and bought too many mussels, don’t worry. You won’t need to gorge yourself trying to eat them all before they go bad. You can freeze mussels to extend their shelf life.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about freezing mussels.
Can You Freeze Mussels?
Yes, mussels can indeed be frozen. However, when you freeze them, they should be handled carefully and you should take some things into consideration.
First, they should be alive when you freeze them. While they will die in the freezer, to extend their shelf life they should still be alive when frozen.
So, before you freeze them you should discard any mussels that are opened or cracked as they will likely be dead. Even though live mussels will die in the freezer, they are still completely fine to eat. However, it may be easier and perhaps safer to freeze mussels that are already cooked.
How Long Do Mussels Last in the Freezer?
Bacteria will develop quickly in most types of seafood, especially if it’s uncooked. This is why you should always keep seafood on ice, in the refrigerator, or in the freezer. Otherwise, you can get a foodborne illness from rotten mussels if they’re just sitting on the counter at room temperature for too long.
The best way to prevent bacteria growth and keep your mussels better longer is to of course store them in the freezer. They can last for up to three months in the freezer if properly stored. Since they are more delicate than perhaps other types of food, it’s important that you follow the steps closely for the best results when freezing mussels.
If you want to further extend their lifespan, you can first cook them. This allows them to be stored in the freezer for up to six months, instead of three. It just means you have to do a little bit more work preparing them to be frozen. So it’s a great option if you have spare time. And they are even safe to eat after six months. But you may start to notice a decline in their taste and texture.
Cooked Mussels will last up to 4 hours at room temperature. After that, you’ll need to either keep them in the fridge or throw them out.
Cooked mussels will last 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. They should be kept in an airtight container or a sealable plastic bag at all times. It keeps the taste and flavor of the mussels while keeping them from drying out.
Raw mussels will keep for no more than 2 hours at room temperature. Bacteria thrive quickly at temperatures ranging from 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Raw muscles that have been out for more than 2 hours should be thrown immediately.
Raw mussels will keep in the fridge for 1-3 days. This is dependent on whether the mussels purchased are alive or dead. It can live for up to three days when stored in the fridge.
When keeping raw mussels in the fridge, keep them in an open container with damp cloths or paper towels to keep them moist. The mussels will not dry out as a result of this.
How to Freeze Fresh Mussels
As I’ve mentioned before, you can freeze both fresh (live) mussels or cooked mussels. I’ll go through how you prepare and freeze both of them. But first, here’s how you freeze fresh mussels. The methods aren’t all that different but it’s important to go through both ways as it’s easier to understand.
When it comes to freezing fresh mussels, you need to do it quickly when they’re still alive. This means that you should freeze them within one or two days of buying them.
- First, place the live mussels into a heavy-duty freezer bag. During this process take a look at each mussel. If you see any opened shells, give them a tap. If they close, continue to put them in the freezer bag. On the other hand if they don’t, that means they are dead and you should discard them.
- Fill the plastic bag, but make sure to leave a little bit of space at the top and release as much air as you can.
- Tightly seal the bag. If you’re uncertain about the seal, then you may want to double bag it to provide an extra layer. A tight seal is important to prevent freezer burn.
- Then, label the bag and place them in the freezer.
- You can store the mussels in the freezer for up to three months.
How to Freeze Cooked Mussels
Next, let’s go into how to freeze cooked mussels. So, if you have leftover mussels that you couldn’t finish, you can easily store them in the freezer to enjoy at a later date.
While there are a variety of ways that you can cook mussels, there’s really only one way to freeze them. And it begins by first allowing the cooked mussels to cool down completely. Here are the next steps after the mussels have been allowed to cool down:
- First, wrap the cooked mussels in aluminum foil. Make sure to wrap them as tightly as you can, leaving as little space for air as possible.
- Place the wrapped mussels into either a shallow container or a freezer bag.
- Remove as much as possible from the container or the bag.
- Label the container or bag.
- Place them in the freezer. They can be stored for up to six months this way.
Alternatively, cooked mussels can be stored in the fridge for three or four days before you freeze them. However, like other foods, I recommend freezing them as soon as possible if you can.
How to Defrost Frozen Mussels
Defrosting frozen mussels is super easy, and not even necessary sometimes. When you know when you’ll use them, place them in the fridge the night before. By morning they will be ready to use. If you need to defrost them quicker, you can also put the whole bag of mussels into cold water. However, don’t use warm water. That can negatively impact the texture.
Lastly, depending on how you cook them, you may not need to defrost them at all. If you steam them, you can do it directly from when they’re frozen. Also, if you plan on using them as an addition to a soup, you can also put them directly into the soup without having to defrost them first.
So, if you have the time there certainly is no harm in defrosting the frozen mussels. But, if you want to save a bit of time, you can first think about how you’ll use them. This can be a bit challenging since there are so many delicious ways that you can incorporate mussels into a dish. You can make a mussel soup, broiled mussels, corn and mussel chowder, red curry mussels, etc. the list goes on and on.
But no matter what you choose, you can’t go wrong with pairing the dish with either some garlic bread, rice, or roasted potatoes.
Can You Refreeze Mussels?
When it comes to refreezing mussels, you should definitely not do it. This goes for many other foods as well, but particularly meats.
Defrosting and refreezing mussels will have a negative effect on the texture and perhaps also the taste of the mussels.
This can be particularly noticeable since mussels are a little bit spongy already, but when you refreeze them they can become soggy, which is a very big difference and should be avoided if possible.
In addition to that, thawing and refreezing mussels is likely to aid in the spread of foodborne bacteria that could give you severe food poisoning. Just don’t do it!