← Back to Search Results
grilling Barbecue
Mussels Grilled on a Bed of Flaming Pine Needles

Photo by: Joseph DeLeo
Comments: 0


To call the combination of sea saltiness and pine smoke sublime would be an understatement, and to wash the mussels down with anything less than a crisp, dry Muscadet would be criminal.

You'll need a special fuel--dried pine needles--to grill these mussels. There's no substitute for dried pine needles, but they keep well, so the next time you're hiking in the woods or find yourself in a region with pine trees, gather several bags (they are sometimes available at plant nurseries). Store them in your basement, away from heat and light.

Yield: Serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 as a main course


  • 2 pounds mussels (40 to 50) in the shells
  • 1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar
  • Melted butter, for serving

You’ll also need:

  • 2 quarts dried pine needles
  • Two 9-by-13–inch aluminum foil pans


1. Scrub the mussels well with a brush under cold running water, discarding any with cracked shells or shells that fail to close when tapped. Using needle-nose pliers, pull out and discard any clumps of black strings at the hinges of the mussels. Using a metal skewer or an old pointy knife, poke holes in the bottom of one of the aluminum foil pans. Pierce the foil with the skewer or knife tip, then twist it to make a 1/2-inch hole. The holes should be spaced 2 inches apart.

2. Fill the perforated foil pan with the pine needles; they should be loosely mounded rather than tightly packed. Arrange the mussels on top.

3. Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat it to high. In the best of all worlds, you’ll be grilling over a wood fire. Charcoal is the second-best choice, but you can also do this on a gas grill. There is no need to oil the grill grate.

4. When ready to cook, place the pan with the mussels on the hot grate. The pine needles will start to smoke and catch fire after a few minutes. If you’re working on a gas grill, you may need to use a butane match or lighter to help ignite the pine needles. Once the pine needles have caught fire, place the second foil pan over the mussels and pine needles. Grill the mussels until the shells open and the bivalves are cooked, 5 to 8 minutes.

5. Once the mussel shells begin to open, sprinkle the mussels with the raspberry vinegar, if using. Cover the mussels again and grill for 1 minute longer. The vinegar is optional, but it adds an extra dimension of flavor.

6. Transfer the smoking, steaming pan with the mussels to a heatproof platter and serve the mussels at once, discarding any that have not opened. You eat the mussels with your fingers right out of the pan. Melted butter can be served on the side, but you really don’t need it.


How: Direct grilling

© 2010 Steven Raichlen

Nutritional Information

Nutrients per serving (% daily value)

Nutritional information is based on 4 servings and does not include melted butter for serving.

196kcal (10%)
59mg (6%)
18mg (30%)
109mcg RAE (4%)
64mg (21%)
649mg (27%)
1g (5%)
5g (8%)
9mg (50%)

Would you like to leave a comment about this recipe?

Notify me of new comments on this recipe. Add comment

We'd love to hear what you think!

Please or to add a comment to this recipe.

Sign up for
The Cookstr Weekly

Free handpicked cookbook recipes delivered straight to your inbox

Explore Cookbooks on Cookstr

125-best-vegan-recipes 125 Best Vegan Recipes
by Maxine Effenson Chuck, Beth Gurney
lidias-italy Lidia's Italy
by Lidia Bastianich
hot-sour-salty-sweet Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet
by Jeffrey Alford, Naomi Duguid
allergy-free-desserts Allergy-Free Desserts
by Elizabeth Gordon
fruits-of-the-harvest-recipes-to-celebrate-kwanzaa-and-other-holidays Fruits of the Harvest: Reci...
by Eric V. Copage
everyday-chinese-cooking Everyday Chinese Cooking
by Katie Chin, Leeann Chin
the-sushi-experience The Sushi Experience
by Hiroko Shimbo
how-to-be-a-domestic-goddess How to be a Domestic Goddess
by Nigella Lawson
the-country-cooking-of-ireland The Country Cooking of Ireland
by Colman Andrews
mexican-everyday Mexican Everyday
by Rick Bayless
antipasti-fabulous-appetizers-and-small-plates Antipasti: Fabulous Appetiz...
by Joyce Goldstein
nigella-express Nigella Express
by Nigella Lawson
the-sweet-life The Sweet Life
by Kate Zuckerman
cooking-for-friends Cooking for Friends
by Gordon Ramsay
Already a member? Sign in here

Sign up to Cookstr!

  • Receive a free, handpicked selection of recipes in your inbox weekly
  • Save, share and comment on your favorite recipes in My Cookstr
  • Get updates on new cookbooks, Cookstr features, and other exclusives we know you'll love
By signing up you accept the
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
New to Cookstr? Sign up here

Sign in to Cookstr

Keep me logged in
Thanks for commenting!
Would you like to share your comment on Facebook or Twitter?