How to store live shellfish

Live mussels, cockles, pipis and other shellfish with two linked shells must be stored at between +4 and +6 degrees Celsius under a cover of melting ice. It's important not to let the ice make direct contact with the shellfish (you'll kill them with cold), so use the following method:

  1. Put the shellfish into a container (preferably one with drainage holes like a colander).
  2. Cover the shellfish with a towel or sacking, and then cover this with ice.
  3.  Keep the container in a cool place but not in the fridge.

If you have caught the shellfish yourself, you can store them for a short while in a container filled with salt water. Live shellfish die if you:

  • store them at a temperature that's too high or too low
  • store them in the fridge for more than five hours
  • cover them with fresh water for too long.

To test if mussels, cockles or pipis are alive before you cook them, leave them at room temperature for 20 minutes then tap the shells lightly or hold them under fresh water until they close. If the shell remains open about one centimetre, the shellfish is dead — throw it away.

Shellfish Preparation

Bearding Mussels:

Using a stiff brush, scrub mussels well under running water, scraping shell with a knife to remove any marine growth. 
Tug beard toward pointed end to remove. 
Use whole as directed in recipe.

Opening Mussels:

Put the cleaned Mussels in a bowl of warm, salted water. 
As they begin to open, insert point of knife between the two shells and slide it toward pointed end to sever the closing mechanism. 
Mussels can also be opened by heating briefly in microwave oven. 
Remove top shell if serving in the half shell, or leave in place if stuffing. 
Remove Mussel entirely if only the meat is required

Pipis and Cockles or any other sand burrowing shellfish:

Soak pipis in cold seawater for about an hour, or more, so that they expel the bulk of the sand they contain. Remove them to a clean dish. Boil about 2.5cm (1 inch) seawater in a saucepan and place a few pipis at a time to this but remove as soon as they open so that they do not become tough. Drain liquid into cooking water, remove the meat from the shells. After opening pipis, save the liquid used to open them.