If you’re a fan of seafood, then you’ve likely eaten mussels and oysters before.
While they may both live in shells in the ocean, there are actually quite a few differences between them.
Both oysters and mussels are part of the Mollusca phylum in terms of species.
That phylum includes several different types of invertebrates.
Interestingly, they’re cousins with both snails and octopuses.
Despite being part of the same phylum, mussels and oysters have stark differences.
Here are a few differences between mussels and oysters.
Mussels Vs. Oysters (What’s The Difference?)
Mussels are easily spotted in the ocean or other bodies of water by their shells.
They tend to be dark blue or black in color.
Oysters, on the other hand, have a few more variations in color.
Their shells can be white, brown, or even grey.
Another thing that sets them apart is the mussels’ iridescent coloring on their shells.
While scientists still aren’t sure exactly how mussels make their shells iridescent, there are clear advantages to forming them.
The film of iridescent material makes the shells stronger.
In studies, the scientists found that shells with this shimmery covering were less likely to fracture than those without the covering.
It makes the mussel safer.
You can spot this iridescent film by moving the mussel in the sun.
The sun’s rays catch the film and make it seem as though there’s a rainbow on the shell.
You can spot this sheen easily which makes it different from an oyster.
Oysters do not have an iridescent shell.
This feature and their colors make mussels and oysters different.
2. Shell Shape And Texture
Another difference between mussels and oysters is the shape of their shells and their texture.
Mussel shells tend to be smooth.
They have few deformities that make them rough.
They’re oblong in shape.
Oysters, on the other hand, are rougher in texture.
Oysters feel scratchy against the skin when one runs their finger down the shell.
That’s because they have a few more deformities on their shell.
It appears more like a rock which is a defensive mechanism of oysters.
Since they look more like rocks, they can hide from predators more easily.
They also have an easier time catching prey since they blend in with other rocks.
The shape of an oyster is also different from a mussel because it’s more irregular.
It isn’t specifically oblong in shape.
Again, its irregularity makes it look more like a rock.
Mussels and oysters are different because of the shapes and textures of their shells.
Because both mussels and oysters live in water, you might think that they occupy the same habitat.
That isn’t the case.
Mussels are more similar to clams when it comes to their habitats.
They can live in both freshwater and saltwater bodies.
Mussels also rarely move very much.
They use thin fibers to attach themselves to other mussels, rocks, or other surfaces.
They secrete the thin fibers over time.
If they do ever want to move, they can use those fibers to reel themselves around.
Oysters do not live in bodies of freshwater.
They only live in saltwater or brackish bodies of water.
That’s because they rely on the presence of salt to make their shells.
Oysters also do not move that often.
They tend to stay in one place and build themselves on top of other oysters.
For these large oyster colonies, people often use the term oyster reef.
While both mussels and oysters live in the water, mussels can live in freshwater whereas oysters cannot.
The two industries also have different values although they’re quite similar.
The mussel industry has a value of $40 to $50 million per year.
As more people grow interested in eating seafood, that value will likely climb.
The oyster industry is valued even higher at an annual value of around $215 million.
Considering its value has been increasing over the past few years, the industry is also expected to continue to grow.
Although both the mussel and oyster industries have high values, oysters are currently more valuable than mussels.
When you want to eat either a mussel or oyster at a restaurant, then you’ll see that one of their main differences is their cost.
Mussels tend to be cheaper than oysters.
The average price of a mussel meal is around $3.
They’re cheaper because they’re easier to find and there’s not as much demand for them.
Oysters are far more expensive.
The average price of an oyster is around $7.
It’s almost double the price of a mussel.
That’s because oysters are in higher demand than mussels.
Oysters are in demand for both their meat and their pearls.
Mussels don’t form pearls as oysters do.
At least, they don’t form valuable pearls as oysters do.
Because people hunt oysters for their pearls and meat, the demand for them is doubled.
Chefs and restaurants want oysters to cook seafood meals.
Jewelers want oysters for their pearls.
Since more people want oysters, there are fewer to go around.
That increases the price.
Mussels and oysters are different because oysters cost more than mussels.
6. Water Filtration
Mussels and oysters are both bottom feeders.
They eat by filtering out the particulates of food in the water through their bodies.
The amount of water that each can filter is different.
Mussels can filter up to 15 gallons of water every day.
Oysters can filter up to 50 gallons of water every day.
Part of the reason oysters filter more than mussels is their size.
Oysters are larger than mussels and thus can bring in more water.
They also have to eat more since they require more energy than mussels.
Because they filter water, oysters and mussels play an important part in keeping bodies of water healthy.
They can remove disease and waste from the water.
That also means that they’re subject to pollution.
Micro-plastics, chemicals, and other acidic pollutants kill mussels and oysters every year.
They also play a part in helping prevent climate change.
One of the nutrients they store in their bodies is carbon.
They use it to make their shells and store it as a food source.
Since they’re removing carbon from the environment, they’re helping mitigate the increase in carbon dioxide in the world.
Unfortunately, because they both filter water, they’re also among the first to become sick and die because of pollutants.
Mussels and oysters both filter water, but oysters filter more than mussels.
7. Endangered Status
Mussels and oysters also differ on whether they’re endangered or not.
Oysters are not considered endangered.
That’s because the oyster fishing trade is highly regulated.
Oyster farms help mitigate how many oysters come out of the oceans.
Mussels, on the other hand, are in trouble.
In many cities near bodies of freshwater, they have endangered mussels.
Freshwater mussels are in trouble because of their proximity to pollutants.
Since most cities and industrial zones are by freshwater bodies, their pollution also ends up in the body of water.
That’s either by design or by accident.
The mussels living in the water are subject to lots of pollution that they try to filter clean.
However, in most cases, the pollution is too much for them to filter through it all on their own.
Many cities have tried to curb the amount of pollution in their fresh water and help the mussels reproduce at higher numbers.
Some have even removed mussels and transported them to other, cleaner, bodies of freshwater.
Oysters and mussels are different because oysters aren’t endangered whereas freshwater mussels are.
Another big difference between mussels and oysters is their flavor.
Oyster meat has a reputation for being soft and tender with a jelly-like consistency.
Some oysters have a nutty flavor whereas others have a creamy flavor.
Some even taste fruity or salty.
In general, the average seafood enthusiast tends to prefer oysters because their flavor is milder or more potent where it matters.
Mussel meat has a reputation for being thicker and not as tender.
It’s also not as soft, especially after going through heat treatment.
Its meat is delicate and can sometimes even taste sweet.
9. Health Benefits
There are also several health benefits that you can receive from both mussels and oysters, but they’re each a little different in what they provide.
Mussels have a ton of vitamins and minerals in them.
Some of its most important include:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin PP
They’re also packed with antioxidants that can help remove free radicals in the body to prevent cancer.
Antioxidants also help regulate your metabolism which can help you lose weight.
Because mussels have a high amount of salt, they’re also helpful with the cardiovascular system.
They help increase blood flow which can help reduce inflammation that causes arthritis or gout.
Finally, mussels contain a lot of protein.
They’re a great snack for anyone looking to build muscle.
Oysters also contain a lot of health benefits.
They share some of the same benefits such as being rich in several vitamins.
Oysters contain the following vitamins as well:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin PP
They also have a high amount of zinc, phosphorus, iodine, and fluoride which all help the body develop stronger and stay strong.
Fluoride, in particular, can help stop the spread of cavities and protect your teeth.
Both oysters and mussels provide health benefits, but they differ in the exact way that they improve your health.
The ways you cook oysters and mussels also differ.
You can eat oysters raw, but you can’t eat mussels raw.
That’s because mussels tend to hold onto their toxins more than oysters.
Since they’re more likely to come from freshwater, too, then they may have a lot of pollution.
Oysters often come from farms that see minimal, if any, pollution in their seabeds.
You can eat raw oysters with nothing more than some lemon juice squeezed on them.
Mussels need mindful cooking to ensure all the toxins are gone.
What Are The Similarities Between Oysters And Mussels?
While oysters and mussels share a lot of differences, there are some similarities between them.
Here are a few similarities between oysters and mussels.
1. They Form Their Own Shells
Both oysters and mussels make their own shells.
Unlike their cousins, which find shells to inhabit, mussels and oysters make their own shells out of carbon.
As they filter through their food in the water, they take carbon and use it to make calcium carbonate.
That forms a strong and protective shell around the creature itself.
They also don’t leave their shells after forming them.
It takes a lot of time and energy for oysters and mussels to form their shells.
As a result, when they need to move around, they take their shells with them.
Since oysters don’t move around, they rely on the colony of oysters around them to keep them safe.
Mussels, however, do move.
They use thin fibers to haul them and their shells around the bottom of the body of water.
Both mussels and oysters are also known as bivalves.
Clams also fit into this category.
Bivalves are creatures that use a shell as the main form of protection from predators.
It’s given the name bivalve because the shell closes together.
There’s a crease, or opening, that a predator can force open to gain access to the meat inside of the shell.
Since it uses two shells to come together, it’s a bivalve.
While both can live in different types of water, they tend to be in the same types of places.
Because they’re bottom-feeders, you can often find them on the bottom of the ocean, lake, or river.
Some will even burrow into the soil to hide better.
While oysters tend to congregate in colonies, mussels do the same.
You can find them gathered together on ropes or along the edges of a body of water.
How To Cook Mussels
Follow these steps to safely prepare mussels.
The first step you should take is to clean the mussels.
Running water over them and giving them a good scrub for a minute or two should do the trick.
You’ll want to make sure you clean everywhere.
2. Prepare The Broth
You’ll need a large pot with a lid to cook mussels.
Fill the pot with your choice of broth.
Mussels tend to taste best when cooked in a white wine broth.
You’ll only want to fill the pot with one inch of your broth.
Turn on your stove and let the broth start to boil.
Once it’s boiling rapidly, you’ll want to add in your mussels all at the same time.
Next, you will wait for three minutes.
After that point, you should stir the mussels and ensure that they’re opened.
If any aren’t open, then push them down to the bottom of the pot.
4. Open Shells
The heat will force the shells to open on their own.
You’ll want to keep cooking and checking on them every two minutes.
Whenever you notice a shell that isn’t open, push it down to the bottom.
Once all the shells are open, you can serve them.
You shouldn’t cook them for more than five minutes total.
If any shells still aren’t open by that time, then you should throw them out or use them to compost your garden.
How To Cook Oysters
If you want to know how to cook oysters instead of eating them raw, then follow these steps.
1. Prepare The Sauce
To make a delicious grilled oyster platter, you’ll need to start with the sauce.
Take a small saucepan and heat it on medium to low heat.
Once the pan is hot, add butter and olive oil.
Then add in garlic and sauté just until you can smell the garlic.
It should only take 30 seconds.
Finally, add in some lemon juice, salt, parsley, pepper, and some chili pepper flakes.
2. Shuck The Oysters
While your sauce is waiting, you need to shuck the oysters.
If you know how to shuck, then open them up and put in a little sauce directly into the oyster.
If you don’t know how to shuck, then you can set the oysters on a hot grill.
Cover the oysters and let them cook for a minute.
The oyster shells should open themselves by then.
Once all the shells are open, you’ll want to put some sauce into each one.
A spoon works wonders.
Then set the oysters on the grill, cover them,
and cook them for five minutes.
After five minutes, they’re ready to eat.
Oysters and mussels are some favorites in the world of seafood for their flavor and health benefits.
Despite both living in shells, there are some key differences between them.
When you’re ready to eat mussels or oysters to determine which is your favorite, try the recipes above.