Clams Alive: Keeping Bivalves Fresh & Delicious

Welcome to “Clams Alive: Keeping Bivalves Fresh & Delicious”! If you’re a seafood enthusiast or just looking to expand your culinary horizons, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll dive into the fascinating world of clams and explore how to select, store, and prepare these delectable bivalves to perfection.

Key Takeaways:

  • Clams are bivalve mollusks enclosed in two shells joined by a hinge.
  • They come in various varieties, including hard-shell clams like littlenecks and cherrystones, and soft-shell clams like steamers and razor clams.
  • Clams are highly nutritious, packed with vitamins, minerals, and protein.
  • When purchasing clams, look for a tight seal, solid shell sound, and a good weight.
  • Properly storing and cleaning clams ensures optimal freshness and taste.

What Are Clams Even?

geoduck clam

Clams are fascinating bivalve mollusks that dwell in the ocean. Enclosed in two shells joined by a hinge, these delicious creatures offer a range of culinary delights. Let’s explore the world of clams and uncover their different varieties.

Hard-Shell Clams: One popular type of clam is the hard-shell clam, which includes varieties like littlenecks and cherrystones. These clams have shells that are quite sturdy and provide a satisfying crunch when eaten.

Soft-Shell Clams: Another subset of clams is the soft-shell variety, such as steamers and razor clams. These clams have thinner shells, making them easier to open and enjoy.

Geoduck Clam: Among the diverse array of clams, the geoduck clam holds a special place. Found in the Pacific Northwest, this is the largest clam species, with shells that can reach up to six inches in length.

Clams possess a tender, juicy texture and a mildly sweet and briny taste. They can be prepared in various ways, including steaming, grilling, or sautéing. Whether enjoyed in their shells or removed, these bivalve mollusks are a versatile ingredient that adds a unique flavor to any dish.

Now that we have familiarized ourselves with clams and their many varieties, let’s delve deeper into their nutritional value and why they are considered a sustainable seafood choice.

Are They Good For Me?

When it comes to nutrition, clams are a powerhouse. These flavorful bivalve mollusks have a high nutritional value, packed with essential vitamins and minerals that contribute to a healthy diet. Whether you’re a seafood lover or looking to add more variety to your meals, clams are a fantastic choice.

Vitamins: Clams are an excellent source of several important vitamins. They are particularly rich in vitamin B12, which is essential for nerve function and the production of red blood cells. Additionally, clams contain vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that boosts immune health.

Minerals: Not only do clams provide essential vitamins, but they are also a valuable source of minerals. They are especially high in iron, which is necessary for oxygen transport in the body. Other minerals found in clams include zinc, which supports immune function, and potassium and calcium, which play crucial roles in maintaining heart health and strong bones, respectively.

“Clams are a nutritional powerhouse, offering a wide range of vitamins and minerals.”

NutrientAmount per 100g
Vitamin B1298.9 mcg
Vitamin C2.3 mg
Iron28 mg
Zinc2.3 mg
Potassium508 mg
Calcium82 mg

Source: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release, USDA.

When it comes to sustainability, clams are a fantastic choice. Farm-raised clams, such as steamers, littlenecks, and cockles, are a sustainable seafood option. As long as they are hand-harvested instead of being dredged, clam farming practices have minimal impact on the ocean floor.

How Do I Buy Clams?

buy clams

When it comes to buying clams, it’s important to find a reputable fishmonger or seafood department that offers live clams in the shell. Look for a place with high turnover to ensure the clams are fresh and of high quality.

Farm-raised clams are a great option to consider. These clams are available year-round and are carefully cultivated in controlled environments. Opt for clams that are labeled as farm-raised to ensure their quality and sustainability.

It’s also crucial to choose clams that are harvested by hand rather than using dredging methods. Hand-harvested clams help protect the ocean floor and maintain a healthy ecosystem.

Keep in mind that there may be harvesting restrictions in certain areas due to contamination concerns. Check with local authorities or the fishmonger to ensure that the clams you buy are safe to consume.

Overall, buying live clams from a reputable source and opting for farm-raised clams harvested by hand are key considerations when purchasing clams.

Key Points to Consider:
Buy clams live in the shell from a reputable fishmonger.
Opt for farm-raised clams available year-round.
Choose clams that are harvested by hand to protect the ocean floor.
Check for any harvesting restrictions in your area due to contamination concerns.

What to Look for When Purchasing Bivalves

purchasing bivalves

When purchasing bivalves like clams, it’s essential to pay attention to certain characteristics to ensure their quality and freshness. Here are some key factors to consider:

  1. Seal: Check the seal of the shells. They should be tightly closed with no gaps, indicating that the bivalve is still alive and fresh.
  2. Sound: Tap the shells together gently. A solid and resonating sound signifies that the bivalve is alive and healthy. If you hear a dull or hollow sound, it may indicate that the clam is dead or compromised.
  3. Weight: Bivalves should feel heavier than they appear. This weight indicates that the shell is filled with meat and that the clam is plump and full of flavor.
  4. Shell Shape: For oysters, look for consistency in shell shape. Aquaculture oysters are usually cultivated in a controlled environment, resulting in more uniform shells. These shells are generally easier to open.
  5. Freshness: Finally, the smell of the bivalves is a crucial indicator of freshness. The aroma should be clean, briny, and reminiscent of the ocean. Avoid clams or oysters with a fishy or unpleasant odor.

By paying attention to these factors, you can ensure that you are purchasing high-quality bivalves that will enhance your culinary experience.

Expert Tip:

To get a better sense of the quality and freshness of the bivalves, consider visiting a reputable fishmonger or seafood market with a wide selection. The experts there can guide you in selecting the best bivalves and provide valuable advice on preparation and cooking techniques.

How to Store and Clean Bivalves

Store and Clean Bivalves

Properly storing and cleaning bivalves like clams is essential to maintain their freshness and ensure a delicious culinary experience. Here are some tips to store and clean bivalves:

Storing Bivalves

When storing bivalves, such as clams, it is important to keep them in a stainless steel bowl in the refrigerator. Place a wet paper towel or cloth over the bivalves to maintain their moisture. It is crucial not to store them in water as it can affect their taste and texture.

Cleaning Bivalves

Before cooking bivalves, it is necessary to clean them properly. Start by rinsing them under cool water to remove any debris or sand. Use a brush or your fingers to gently scrub the outside of the shell to remove any dirt or residue. This step helps ensure that the bivalves are free from any impurities.

Saltwater Purge

To further clean the bivalves and remove any remaining sediment, you can perform a saltwater purge. Fill a clean container with a mixture of salt and water, maintaining a ratio of 1/3 cup of salt to 1 gallon of water. Submerge the bivalves in the saltwater solution for approximately 30 minutes. During this time, the saltwater will help the bivalves expel any sand or grit trapped inside their shells. After the purge, give them a final rinse under cool water.

By following these simple steps, you can store and clean bivalves effectively, enhancing their taste and ensuring a delightful dining experience.

How to Tell if Clams are Bad

spoiled clams

When it comes to enjoying clams, freshness is key. To ensure that your clams are still good and safe to eat, there are a few signs to watch out for.

First and foremost, fresh clams should not have a fishy or spoiled smell. Instead, they should have a clean and briny aroma reminiscent of the ocean.

When checking clams at a fish market or seafood department, it’s important to inspect their condition. Live clams should be the norm, and any cracked shells or missing pieces indicate that they may have gone bad and should be avoided.

If you have clams that were purchased earlier, you can perform a simple test to determine their freshness. Fill a bowl with water and gently place the clams inside. If any clams float to the top, it’s a clear indication that they are no longer alive and should not be consumed.

By keeping an eye out for the fishy smell, cracked shells, and floating clams, you can ensure that you only enjoy clams that are fresh, flavorful, and safe to eat.

How to Tell if a Clam is Alive

When it comes to selecting fresh clams, it’s crucial to know how to determine if they are alive. Here are a few simple methods to check the vitality of a clam:

  1. Tap on the Shell: One way to test if a clam is still alive is by gently tapping on its shell. If the clam reacts by closing its shell or showing movement, it is a good indication that the clam is alive and healthy.
  2. Observing Open or Closed Shells: Clams that remain closed after being tapped may still be alive, but it’s best to discard them as they could be dead. Additionally, clams with open shells that do not respond to tapping could be spoiled and should also be discarded.

By following these simple guidelines, you can ensure that the clams you select are fresh, alive, and of the highest quality for your culinary creations.

How to Prepare Raw Clams

Handling raw clams requires care to ensure that they are fresh and safe to eat. Before preparing raw clams, it’s important to check for signs of freshness and discard any clams that are not alive or have damaged shells. Follow these simple steps to properly prepare raw clams:

  1. Cleaning the Clams: Start by rinsing the clams under cool running water to remove any dirt or sand. Use a brush to gently scrub the outside of the shell to ensure it is clean. This step is crucial to prevent any unwanted grittiness in the final dish.
  2. Purging the Clams: To further ensure the cleanliness of the clams, it is recommended to purge them in saltwater. Create a mixture of 1/3 cup of salt for every gallon of water and stir until dissolved. Soak the clams in this saltwater solution for about half an hour. This process helps the clams expel any remaining sand or sediment from their shells, resulting in a cleaner and more enjoyable eating experience.
  3. Cooking the Clams: Once the clams have been cleaned and purged, they are ready to be cooked. Raw clams can be cooked in various ways, such as steaming or incorporating them into sauces or broths. When steaming, place the clams in a pot with a small amount of liquid, such as wine or broth, and steam until the shells open, indicating that they are cooked and safe to eat.

By following these steps, you can confidently prepare raw clams, knowing that they have been properly cleaned and are ready to be cooked to perfection.

How to Cook and Serve Bivalves

Bivalves like clams and oysters are not only delicious but also incredibly versatile in the kitchen. Whether you prefer the tender, sweet taste of steamed clams or the smoky, robust flavors of grilled oysters, there are several cooking methods to explore. Let’s dive into some exciting cooking techniques and serving ideas for these delightful bivalve mollusks.

Steaming Clams

Steaming clams is a classic and popular method that brings out their natural flavors and preserves their tender texture. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Thoroughly rinse the clams to remove any sand or debris.
  2. In a large pot, add a little water or broth (such as white wine or clam juice) and bring it to a boil.
  3. Add the cleaned clams to the pot and cover with a lid.
  4. Steam the clams for about 5-7 minutes or until the shells open.
  5. Remove the cooked clams from the pot, discard any unopened shells, and serve them with melted butter or a squeeze of lemon.

Grilling Oysters

Grilling oysters adds a unique smoky flavor and a delightful char to their creamy flesh. Here’s a simple grilling method:

  1. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat.
  2. Scrub the oysters under running water to remove any dirt or barnacles.
  3. Place the oysters, flat-side up, directly on the grill grates.
  4. Cover the grill and cook the oysters for about 5-6 minutes or until the shells open slightly.
  5. Using tongs, carefully remove the oysters from the grill and place them on a serving plate.
  6. Top the grilled oysters with flavorsome additions such as melted butter, minced garlic, grated Parmesan cheese, or a dash of hot sauce.

Serving Clams and Oysters

Beyond steaming and grilling, there are many exciting ways to serve clams and oysters. Here are a few delicious ideas:

  • Add steamed clams to savory broths, soups, or stews to create hearty and flavorful dishes.
  • Use cooked clams in pasta recipes like linguine with clam sauce or classic clam chowder.
  • Incorporate chopped clams or oysters into seafood stuffing for an extra burst of flavor.
  • Enjoy freshly shucked oysters on the half-shell with a squeeze of lemon or your favorite accompaniments.

Now that you know how to cook and serve bivalves, it’s time to get creative in the kitchen and savor the delectable flavors of clams and oysters. Whether you’re steaming, grilling, or incorporating them into sumptuous dishes, these bivalves are sure to impress and delight your taste buds.

Cooking MethodDescription
SteamingA classic method that brings out the natural flavors and retains the tender texture of clams.
GrillingImparts a smoky flavor and a delightful char to the creamy flesh of oysters.

Some Great Ways to Top-Off an Oyster

Oysters are a delicacy that can be enjoyed in their purest form or enhanced with various toppings and sauces. Elevate your oyster experience by exploring different flavors and combinations. Here are some fantastic ways to top-off an oyster:

Mignonette Sauce

Mignonette sauce is a classic accompaniment that adds a tangy and flavorful twist to oysters. This champagne vinaigrette combines finely chopped shallots, cracked pepper, and vinegar to create a perfect balance of acidity and sweetness. The brightness of the mignonette sauce enhances the natural brininess of oysters, creating a delightful taste explosion.

Cocktail Sauce

Cocktail sauce is a popular choice for those who prefer a bold and spicy kick. This tangy sauce typically combines ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce, creating a zesty flavor profile. The spicy notes of the cocktail sauce provide a sharp contrast to the oyster’s creamy texture, making it a mouthwatering combination.

Tabasco Sauce

Tabasco sauce is a fiery condiment made from aged red peppers, vinegar, and salt. Its vibrant and spicy flavor can be drizzled over oysters to add a kick of heat. The combination of the oyster’s delicate taste and the intense spiciness of Tabasco sauce creates a bold and unforgettable experience. Pair it with a saltine cracker for a satisfying balance of flavors and textures.

“Some people prefer their oysters with a touch of heat and a kick of spice. Tabasco sauce is the perfect match for those looking to add an extra punch to their oyster experience.”

Aside from these traditional sauces, many restaurants offer more contemporary oyster toppings that provide unique flavor combinations. Flavored foams, caviar, or microgreens can take your oyster indulgence to new heights, providing exciting and inventive options to tantalize your taste buds.

Let your creativity shine by experimenting with different toppings and discovering your favorite way to enjoy oysters. Whether you prefer classic combinations or enjoy exploring new flavor profiles, topping off an oyster adds an extra element of excitement and enhances the overall dining experience.


Clams are a versatile and delicious seafood delicacy that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Whether you prefer to steam or grill them, clams offer a sweet and briny taste that pairs perfectly with a wide range of ingredients. Not only are they incredibly flavorful, but clams also provide a host of nutritional benefits, making them a fantastic addition to any meal.

One of the key advantages of clams is their versatility. They can be served on the half-shell, bringing a burst of freshness to your table, or incorporated into dishes like pasta, chowder, or even sushi. The possibilities are endless when it comes to using fresh clams in your culinary creations.

Furthermore, clams are a sustainable choice for seafood lovers. By opting for farm-raised clams and ensuring they are harvested responsibly, you can enjoy this delicious ingredient without contributing to overfishing or damaging the environment.

In conclusion, fresh clams are both a scrumptious and nutritious choice. Their distinctive taste and versatility make them a must-try for seafood enthusiasts. So next time you’re looking for a delicious seafood option, consider incorporating fresh clams into your menu. Your taste buds and the environment will thank you for it!


What are clams even?

Clams are bivalve mollusks enclosed in two shells joined by a hinge. They come in various varieties, including hard-shell clams like littlenecks and cherrystones, and soft-shell clams like steamers and razor clams. The geoduck clam, found in the Pacific Northwest, is the largest with a shell up to six inches long. Clams are tender, juicy, and have a sweetly briny taste. They can be cooked by steaming, grilling, or sautéing and can be eaten in or out of the shell.

Are clams good for me?

Yes, clams are highly nutritious. They are high in vitamin B12, protein, and vitamin C. They are also rich in minerals like iron, zinc, potassium, and calcium. Farm-raised clams, such as steamers, littlenecks, and cockles, are a sustainable choice as long as they are hand-harvested instead of dredged, causing no damage to the ocean floor.

How do I buy clams?

To buy clams, it is recommended to purchase them live in the shell from a reputable fishmonger or seafood department with high turnover. Buy farm-raised clams that are available year-round, ensuring they are harvested by hand to avoid damage to the ocean floor. Some areas may have restrictions on clam harvesting due to contamination.

What should I look for when purchasing bivalves?

When purchasing bivalves like clams, it is important to check the seal, sound, and weight of the shell. The shells should be tight with no gaps, and they should feel heavier than they look. In the case of oysters, consistency in shell shape indicates aquaculture, which makes them easier to open. The sound of the shells should be solid when tapped together. Freshness can also be determined by the smell, which should be clean and ocean-like.

How do I store and clean bivalves?

Bivalves like clams should be stored in a stainless steel bowl in the refrigerator, covered with a wet paper towel or cloth. They should not be kept in water. Before cooking, bivalves need to be cleaned by rinsing them under cool water and scrubbing the outside of the shell. They can be purged in saltwater to remove sediment by soaking them in a mixture of salt and water for half an hour.

How can I tell if clams are bad?

Fresh clams should not have a fishy or spoiled smell but should smell like the ocean. When checking clams at a fish market, they should be alive and not have any cracks or missing pieces of shell. For clams purchased earlier, floating clams in water indicate that they are no longer alive and should not be eaten.

How can I tell if a clam is alive?

To check if a clam is alive, you can tap on the shell and see if it closes or responds with movement. If a clam stays shut or shows no movement, it is likely dead and should be discarded. Clams that remain open after tapping should also be thrown away as they may be spoiled.

How do I prepare raw clams?

Handling raw clams requires care. Any clams that are not alive or have damaged shells should be disposed of. Clams need to be cleaned by rinsing them and scrubbing the shell. They should be purged in saltwater by soaking them for half an hour to remove sediment. Once cleaned and purged, clams can be cooked by steaming or in sauces or broths.

How do I cook and serve bivalves?

Bivalves like clams can be cooked by steaming, grilling, or incorporating them into various dishes. Steamed clams are a popular delicacy, while grilled oysters can be enjoyed with toppings like butter, garlic, and Parmesan. Clams can also be served in flavorful broths or used in pasta dishes and chowders. The shells of cooked bivalves should be open, indicating that they are done.

What are some great ways to top off an oyster?

Oysters can be topped with various sauces and accompaniments, like mignonette sauce, which is a champagne vinaigrette with shallots and pepper. Some people prefer cocktail or Tabasco sauce with a saltine cracker for balance. Restaurants may offer more contemporary toppings like caviar, flavored foams, or microgreens.

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