How to Tell If Clams Are Fresh

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Some prefer their clams with butter and salt.
Some prefer their clams with butter and salt. (Image: Alexandra Grablewski/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Seafood enthusiasts prize clams for their versatility. Enjoy them as a fried appetizer, cook them into a clam dip, make a hearty chowder or top your favorite pasta dish with clam sauce. Clams do require some prep work, however. Before you can scrub them clean of sand and grit, they should undergo a rigorous selection process. Visual and olfactory inspections should accompany a “tapping test” to see if your clams are fresh. Never cook clams that are already dead; this can make you sick.

Check the outside of the shells. Discard any clams that have broken or cracked shells.

Separate the clams with tightly closed shells from those that are opened. The clams with closed shells are still alive and fine to eat.

Rap each clam shell that is open. Discard any that do not immediately close upon rapping. These clams are either dead or dying and not safe to eat.

Grasp two clams with closed shells and rap them together gently. Discard any clams that sound hollow.

Give your clams a sniff. Discard any that smell fishy or otherwise spoiled. Fresh clams should have a sweet, mild smell.

Cook the clams that survived this selection process. When cooked in their shells, fresh clams will open. This indicates they are fully cooked. Discard any clams that do not open after the proper cooking time; these are not fresh.

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep your clams at 38 degrees Fahrenheit to 45 degrees Fahrenheit in a container that is not airtight.

References

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