How to Steam Clams in the Shell

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Overcooked clams taste rubbery and unappealing.
Overcooked clams taste rubbery and unappealing. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

For the freshest, most delicious flavor, steam clams inside their shells. All three types of clams, soft shell, hard shell and surf clams are suitable for steaming. Once they are steamed, clams are called "steamers." After a good soak in salty water, prepare the seafood with delicious-smelling aromatics. Leaving clams in their shells gives your guests an appetizing, inviting dish to look at and enjoy. Steaming clams only takes a few minutes so you can make them without too much prep time. You should prepare a dozen or more clams for each of your guests.

Things You'll Need

  • Boiling pot with lid
  • Beer
  • 1/2 onion
  • 3 to 4 cloves of garlic
  • Kitchen brush
  • Steamer basket
  • Tongs
  • Serving platter

Place a large boiling pot on the stove. Add 2 inches of water to the bottom of the pan. Pour in one beer, 1/2 onion and 3 to 4 garlic cloves. Turn the heat on high.

Scrub the surface of the clams with a soft kitchen brush to remove dirt and debris. If you dug the clams yourself, you'll need to soak them for 30 minute to 1 hour in cold, salty water and 1 tbsp. of cornmeal.

Place the clams in a steamer basket and set the basket inside the pot. Use caution adding the basket as boiling water may burn your skin. Lower the temperature of the stove to low heat.

Place a tight-fitting lid on the steaming pot. Steam small clams for 5 minutes, larger clams for 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat and use tongs to remove the clams from the pot. Arrange the steamed clams in their shells on a serving platter.

Tips & Warnings

  • Add fresh rosemary or thyme sprigs to the water for an herbal flavor.
  • Provide guests with small seafood forks and melted butter for dipping.
  • Do not steam clams with broken or missing shells.
  • Do not steam dead clams.

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