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Is It Okay To Cook Mussels With Barnacles On Them?

If you're a fan of mussels you have no doubt encountered some with barnacles or white worms on them. Keep reading to find out if they are still safe to cook in such a condition.

By Cookist

Mussels are a type of shellfish that is commonly eaten — usually steamed or boiled. Many people enjoy them but sometimes they come with barnacles attached to them and you're forced to wonder if cooking them like that is safe.

This article explores the topic and answers your question.

Can You Cook Mussels With Barnacles On Them?


If you're wondering if you can cook mussels with barnacles on them, the answer is yes. Barnacles are just a type of crustacean that survives by attaching itself to rocks or the hulls of ships.

They are generally considered a nuisance, but can be consumed.

The relationship between barnacles and mussels may vary depending on the species of mussels they attach to and feed on.

Blue mussels that live in barnacles may witness a higher mortality rate in areas with more difficult conditions e.g. stronger currents and waves.

Mussels are bivalve molluscs that exist alongside oysters and cockles in the bivalve family. Bivalves have two smooth, identical halves surrounded by a completely enclosed shell. Barnacles have rough calcite shells similar to those found on crabs and lobsters.

Cooking requires between 5 to 7 minutes depending on the strength of the heat, the quantity of liquid used, and the amount of mussels.

It is also important to note that barnacles do not impede the growth of mussels as they have a commensal relationship.

Should You Remove Barnacles From Mussels?

Barnacles may appear white on mussels but it is not the only thing that could be attached to your mussel. The white stuff could also be a white worm or byne's disease.

You should remove any mussels that are open – that is, any mussels that are not closed. You can get rid of the barnacles or worm with a stiff brush or blunt knife.

Once you get rid of them, the mussels are safe to eat.


Why Mussels Have Barnacles

Barnacles get shelter from mussels and it works out because mussels have been specially designed to provide enhanced protection against predators, heat stress, and other factors as part of their camouflage kit.

How To Cook Mussels

It is advised you soak fresh mussels in fresh water for about 20 minutes before cooking them. This ensures their cooking is more evenly distributed, and they will be less salty.

If you're dealing with store-bought mussels, it is better to steam rather than boil them. When all of them have been stirred into the pot after 3 minutes, gently push them to the bottom of the pot.


You can cook mussels with barnacles on them but you can also get rid of them if that's what you want. All you'll need is a blunt knife or a stiff brush and you're good to go.

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