Preparing Mussels, Oysters and Scallops

A guide on how to clean mussels, how to check mussels are OK to eat and how to shuck (open) oysters and scallops



Molluscs in Cornwall

We are very lucky in the UK and

especially in Cornwall as we have some amazing native mussels, oysters and scallops. Therefore it is important to know how to enjoy these wonderful molluscs and this page should give you the knowledge needed to know how to clean mussels, shuck oysters and open scallops. Enjoy!


Live mussels need to be cleaned and sorted before you cook them. The video on the left demonstrates exactly how to clean mussels and what to look for when deciding which mussels to cook and which mussels you should discard.

It is important to discard any mussels that are open as this means that the mussels are dead and may well have been for a while.

Cleaning mussels involves pulling off the beards and scraping off the barnacles. Farmed mussels normally have less barnacles than wild mussels as they are grown in sheltered conditions and are therefore easier to clean.



In order to open an oyster it is easier to use an oyster knife designed for the purpose – see below.

The process of opening the oyster is known as shucking.

Only eat oysters that are tightly shut – discard any that are open as this means that the oyster is dead.

Using a cloth to protect your hands, hold the oyster with the rounded side on the underneath and the flatter side on the top. This is also how they should be stored.

Using the knife push the end of the blade into the hinge area between the top and the bottom shell of the oyster and twist the knife to break the hinge.

Slide the knife along horizontally to release the top shell and remove taking care not to spill the liquid inside the oyster.

Slide the knife under the oyster to release it from the bottom shell.

Many people eat the oysters at this stage while they are still raw and alive. Simply add a little lemon juice and enjoy – then wait and see if their alleged aphrodisiac qualities are founded!


As with oysters, opening a scallop is called shucking.

The method is very similar as you need to slide the knife in between the top and bottom shells of the scallop near the hinge.

Follow the inside of the shell with the knife to release the scallop from that side of the shell enabling you to remove the top.

Inside the scallop will have a covering called a frill and will also have a black sack which is the gut. Either use the knife to cut this away or pull it away with your fingers.

This should leave the white meat and the orange coral. Some people like the coral and some people just prefer to eat the white meat so it is entirely up to you whether you keep this piece of the scallop.

Rinse the scallop to get rid of any grit and then it will be ready for you to cook.