How to Shuck Clams
Clams are bivalve mollusks that live in silt or sand. More importantly, they are a tasty form of seafood that is perfect in a chowder, enjoyed raw, or added to a pasta dish. Clams can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, baked or fried. However you choose to eat your clams, the preparation begins with shucking the clams. If you want to know how to shuck clams safely and easily, see Step 1 to get started.
Preparing Your Clams
Make sure the clams you're going to be shucking are alive.A clam shell that is open when you receive it or opens easily by hand is typically dead. Keep the living clams and throw away any dead clams.
Clean your clams.Using a stiff brush, scrub the shell of each clam under cold, running water. This will rid the shell of any residual salt and sand.
Soak the clams.Though you don't have to do this, it will help loosen up the clams a bit before you try to shuck them and will make the entire process easier. Here's how you do it:
- Pour 1 gallon (3.8 L) of water into a large bowl.
- Add 1/3 cup (78.86 ml) of salt to the gallon of water.
- Stir until the salt is completely dissolved into the water.
- Place all your cleaned clams in the water/salt mixture. Let the clams soak for 20 minutes.
- Drain water/salt mixture.
- Repeat the process of soaking your clams in a water/salt mixture 2 more times.
Refrigerate your clams.Place all the clams on a tray and them put them in the refrigerator for an hour. This will help relax the clams and make it easier to open their shells.
Shucking Your Clams
Get a proper shucking knife.You'll need a thin, 3" shucking knife that has a rounded tip that makes it ideal for shucking your clams. Don't confuse this with a pointed oyster knife, which is used differently. If you don't have one of these, make sure you use a small, sharp knife.
Grasp a clam in your hand.Use a towel to hold the clam in your hand. This will protect your hand when you pry open the clam shell with a knife. If you really feel unsteady, you can also wear gloves.
- Make sure the hinge of the clam shell is nestled in the area of your palm nearest your thumb. The opening of the clam should be at your fingertips. You can also press down on the clam a bit to give it some added pressure to make it easier to pry it open with the knife.
Insert a the tip of a paring or clam knife in between the clam shells.Press into the clam, right into the muscle. Alternately, you can insert the knife at the hinge of the shell, but then you'd have to use a lot more pressure to try to break open the hinge and shuck the clam that way. You'll have to squeeze the knife between the shells to loosed the adductor muscles and the hinge of the shells.
Twist your knife.Continue to twist the knife until you break the seal of the clam and your knife is inside the clam shell. Don't force it too much and be careful not to cut your hand. Use the knife more as a form of leverage than force. You will use the knife to pry open the top shell of the clam.
Cut around the seal of the clam shell slowly.This will ensure that you've cut the hinge of the clam shell and are ready to open the clam. Cut the upper adductors and take off the top shell. When the clam is ready, you will hear a nice snapping sound.
Remove the top shell.Using your fingers, pull the top shell off of the clam. Try to save the clam juice, which is a delicious part of the clam.
Cut the clam out of the bottom shell.Just slip the knife under the clam meat to loosen those lower adductors of the clam. Place each clam in a top shell to assemble clams on a half-shell, or prepare the clams according to a recipe. You can place the clams on ice until you're ready to eat or cook them.
QuestionHow long do shucked clams stay fresh?Top AnswererNot long. Opened clams can last an hour or two if kept on ice. Closed clams not yet shucked can last 24-48 hours in the fridge. Always smell them before eating. If they smell fishy, toss 'em. Clams go bad quickly if dead. If in doubt, steam them instead. Any that don't open are dead and can be tossed.Thanks!
QuestionDo I have to clean the inside of the clam?Top AnswererNo. Scrub the unoped clam shells, but once the clam is opened, don't rinse it. The juice left inside contains a lot of flavor and is delicious. Rinsing opened clams may remove some of that flavor leaving you with a watery mollusk.Thanks!
QuestionHow do know what is the good part of the clam and what is waste?Top AnswererThere is no waste in a clam. It consists of the shell, the main body, the muscles that hold the clam to its shell and the ligaments that open and close the shell. Once forced open, you cut the top and bottom muscles that hold the clam. The entire thing is edible and the only waste is the empty shell.Thanks!
QuestionWhat is the procedure for "hot dipping the clam" before shucking?Top AnswererHeating them, such as poaching or steaming, will open them. This can take from 2 - 10 minutes, depending on the size of the clam. See wikiHow to Steam Clams. To make them easier to open, keep the clams on ice for at least one hour before opening.Thanks!
- When shucking clams, work over a bowl to ensure you catch all the juices that come out of the clam shell.
- Don't attempt to cut into clam shells without the protection of a towel on your hand. You could cut yourself if the knife slips while attempting to open the clam shell.
Things You'll Need
Paring or clam knife
Sources and Citations
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