How to Cook Pismo Clams

Known for their distinctive flavor, Pismo clams are found in the sandy beaches of the Pacific coast — stretching from Mexico then to Pismo Beach and up north to Monterey Bay. These clams are commonly harvested by recreational clammers (with a bag limit of 10 clams per day for each clammer) and used in a variety of flavorful dishes, usually in chowders or soups. If you don’t feel like soup, say, on a particularly hot day, a delicious option is to bake your clams stuffed with cheese for a rich, flavorful treat you can enjoy with refreshing drinks.

Things You'll Need

  • Salt water
  • Cornmeal Bowl
  • Kitchen brush
  • 6-8 cups water
  • Large pot
  • 10 Pismo clams
  • Clam knife
  • Sauté pan
  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 tbsp minced onion
  • 1 clove
  • minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp clam juice/broth
  • Baking dish
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

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Place the clams in a bucket of sea water after harvesting, as salt water cleans the clams and makes them easier to open. If you purchased your clams from the market and have no access to sea water, clean the clams in a bowl of water with a bit of salt and cornmeal, and scrub with a kitchen brush if necessary

Add the clean clams to a large pot of boiling water. Reduce to a simmer and steam clams for 6 to 10 minutes until they open. Take them from the pot and let cool. Place the clam broth to the side.

Separate the clam meat from the shells with a clam knife and mince. Detach the shells from their hinges, keep 10 of the best shells and wash them for later.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a sauté pan. Add the onions and then the garlic once the onions have softened. After a minute, add the clams, parsley, bread crumbs, clam juice and lemon juice then stir until the stuffing mixture is evenly moistened.

Spoon the mixture onto the clam shells laid out on the baking dish. Dust the clams with grated Parmesan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the cheese browns.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the stuffing mixture turns out to be too wet, add more bread crumbs. On the other hand, if it becomes too dry, add more butter or clam juice.
  • Clams are best cooked as soon as possible, but if you want to store them, remember that clams should be kept no longer than three days. Before cooking, make sure to discard clams with broken shells and those that are already open but do not close when tapped (these clams are no longer alive).
  • Note that exposure to heat may cause clam meat to toughen so keep a close eye when cooking.


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