Watch this video to learn how to debeard and clean mussels before cooking them.
Video TranscriptI'm Chef Corky Clark from the Culinary Institute of America, and I'm going to show you these kitchen basics: debearding mussels.
Mussels, like all mollusks and shellfish, grow in the sand and the muck. It's always a good idea to scrub them first before cooking. And you of course want to do this under running cold water, and you're going to scrub them well on both sides to remove sand and grit.
The beard is used for the mussel to attach to whatever it's going to grow on. The beard needs to be removed prior to cooking because it's inedible; we can't eat it. But you want to do that just as close to service or as close to cooking as possible, because it will definitely shorten the mussel's shelf life.
You don't actually need any equipment to do this. So you could do it with just your fingers - grab the beard, and pull that forward. If you get it stuck, which occurs many times, you don't need to go out and buy anything special. You probably have needle-nose pliers in your home. Use them to grab the beard, and just pull that beard out as much as you can. Then put the mussel on ice. Again, pull forward toward the opening, or back toward the hinge, it doesn't really make any difference.