What Is the Difference Between Mussels & Steamers?

Both mussels and steamers have no backbone and live in the water. They have shells that protect their bodies. Mussels and steamers seem similar at first, but they have various differentiating features.

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Mussels have darker shells compared to steamers.

Shell

Both mussels and steamers have the same elongated shape to their hinged shells. The steamer or soft-shelled clam has a pair of thin, white shells, while the mussel has darker, thicker shells. The steamer also has a siphon that juts out of the shell.

Size

A steamer usually measures 5 to 7.5 inches when harvested, while an average mussel measures about 3 inches. As such, recipes sometimes call for substituting up to twice the number of mussels for a certain number of steamers.

Habitat

Steamers live in medium-soft sand, compact clay, coarse gravel or mud. People often harvest steamers from sandbars. Mussels attach themselves to rocks, piers, ropes and even other shellfish.


Edriaan Koening

Edriaan Koening began writing professionally in 2005, while studying toward her Bachelor of Arts in media and communications at the University of Melbourne. She has since written for several magazines and websites. Koening also holds a Master of Commerce in funds management and accounting from the University of New South Wales.