A Beginner’s Guide to Live Clams

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Clams are a popular shellfish to add to coastal meals, but if you aren’t lucky enough to live near the Atlantic Ocean on the East coast or the Pacific on the West Coast, you may not know much about clams. Live clams are great for more than just clam chowder and steamers!

Our main attraction here at Taylor Shellfish Farms may be oysters, but we still like to show the live clams a bit of love. Here’s everything we wished people knew about live clams:

Clams, mussels, scallops, and oysters are not the same.

If you are new to shopping at a fish market, you may be confused as to why the fishmongers are selling hundreds of different types of shelled creatures, some of which are wildly expensive. They are all shellfish that live in salt water, so what’s the difference?

Live clams, scallops, live mussels, cockles, and oysters do look similar—we’ll chalk it up to the shells—and have similar roles in the ecosystem. They are all bivalves, mollusks, and filter feeders that spend their lives sitting and swimming (yes, they swim!) around the water. Additionally, there are many different types of each shellfish species, which dictates where they are raised and how they taste.

Clams are one of the most unique types of shellfish in terms of variation. All of the mentioned bivalves can be found across the world’s oceans, but some types of live clams can be found in freshwater, which tastes very different from their briny counterparts. Live clams generally have smooth, shiny shells can live in both cold water and warm water, and are one of the most sustainable types of seafood. Even stranger, there are both hard shell clams and soft shell clams!

When compared to other shellfish, clams are chewy with exceptionally strong flavor profiles that can be either salty or sugary sweet, making them great additions to many different dishes.

Clams need to be cooked live

Though clam meat can be tinned, clams need to be cooked live to ensure safety. Whether you are purchasing clams at a fish market or a grocery store checkout, make sure you buy live clams! Live hard shell clams will have a shell that is tightly closed, not loose, chipped, or damaged. On the other hand, live soft shell clams have shells that don’t entirely close.

To make sure that you are buying live clams, if you notice a shell that is slightly ajar, tap the side of the shell. In response, the live clam should quickly close its shell or retract its siphon. If it doesn’t, the clam is likely dead and is not safe to eat.

The ways to enjoy live clams are endless!

Since there are so many different types of live clams with vast flavor profiles, they can be enjoyed using a wide range of clam recipes.

Littleneck clams are small and salty, perfect for coastal clam chowder. The oddly-shaped razor clams are a delicious centerpiece to a spaghetti dinner with a side of white wine. For simple steamed clams, manila clams have a sweet, succulent taste. Cherrystone clams are the perfect choice for a decadent dish of clams casino. Meanwhile, the giant Topneck clam is a prime pick for a seafood-themed BBQ!

With so many ways to cook clams, the possibilities are truly endless. Even if you aren’t a citizen of a coastal state like Oregon or Maine, you should give live clams a try!