How to Clean & Open Clams

Learn how to clean and open clams in this Howcast food video with Chef Brendan McDermott.


When cleaning clams, what you want to do is you want to scrub them down either with a little sponge or a nice little brush and some cold water. Don't try and use soap or anything like that. Just use a little bit of cold water and a brush and really just make sure you get any of that sandy or gritty dirt off of it because you don't want that to end up in your food. It can really ruin the meal. Even if you steam them in a pot, they open up and that broth has a lot of sand and stuff to it, it's not very tasty. So we want really to make sure you get a good scrub, a good clean on them. When you run your fingers down the shell you shouldn't get anything off of it.

What we're going to do next is we're going to open up the clams. Pretty much, you'd use the same procedure as opening up an oyster. You want to leave the front, the mouth part of it, totally intact. What we're going to do is we're going to come up from behind where it actually opens up, so the valve itself. We're actually going to come up from the spine and kind of wedge our oyster knife in there, and just kind of get it in there, and pop it.

Now when doing this, you have to be really, really careful because if you slip and you get into your hand you could really get a bad cut. It can get pretty bad. What you want to do is you want to take a good kitchen rag. They even make little gloves for this. But a good old kitchen rag folded up about four times should be pretty safe. You can even go four or six. And then, turn it over so your hand is totally protected. Now whenever using an oyster knife, always make sure that if it slips, the oyster knife is going away from your hand. Don't try and dig up like that, just in case. Always try and go away or even with, but don't go into. What we're going to do is we're going to take the oyster knife and put it in there.

All right. That could take a little bit of work. You might take a couple shots. These guys can be pretty strong, so don't be discouraged if it takes more than a minute or so to get some of them open. Once they're sealed, they're pretty much a mussel. They're locked in there. Once you get that top part off, you want to clear away any shell that may have cracked off. Then you take your oyster knife and you just come up underneath and clean out that mussel underneath. Then kind of un-lodge it from the shell. There you'll have your clam.

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