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How Do I Cook Clam Meat?

Robert Ferguson
Robert Ferguson

Clam meat can be cooked in a variety of ways. Fresh clams can be cooked in the shell or out of the shell. Canned clams, whether in whole pieces, slices, or minced, are already pre-cooked. The cleaned and packaged clams are ready for immediate use.

There are several methods that can be used to prepare fresh clams, depending on whether the clams are cooked in the shell or the clam has been shucked and the meat removed from the shell. Fresh clams remaining in the shell can be steamed and then opened to remove the clam. Shelled clam meat can be prepared in a wok for a quick seafood stir-fry, breaded and deep-fried or pan-fried, baked in a casserole, sautéed in oil and butter, or lightly grilled.

Pre-processed clams can be left whole, sliced, or diced, cooked in the same manner as fresh clams and used in the same recipes. Canned or jarred clams are pre-cooked and edible from the package. Many varieties of fresh clams can also be eaten raw.


The advantages of cooking clams purchased from a seafood market or a grocery store’s seafood department are the superior flavor and freshness of the clam meat. Clams from a store or market have already been cleaned with the shell removed and ready for cooking. If purchasing fresh clams in the shell, prior to purchase request that the store or market employee shuck the clams.

Clam meat may be featured in chowder.
Clam meat may be featured in chowder.

Cooking with canned or jarred clam meat has its own advantages. Packaged clams provide the added convenience of not having to de-shell and clean fresh clams. Pre-packaged clams are readily available in supermarkets and specialty stores, year-round. Processed clams also have a much longer shelf life than fresh clams.

Fresh or processed clam meat is the main ingredient in many specialty dishes such as New England clam chowder, linguini with clam sauce, and red and white sauces. Clam meat is also used as a topping on pizza prior to baking. Canned clams can be diced and mixed with assorted ingredients to make creamy clam dip. Like raw or smoked oysters, clams are served on the half-shell, or on a cracker as a canapé.

Canned clams can be used in a creamy clam dip.
Canned clams can be used in a creamy clam dip.

There are numerous varieties of clams found all around the world. Clams are considered hard-shell or soft-shell depending on the habitat and waters where they are located. They can be found in freshwater lakes, rivers, sand and mud flats, while saltwater clams are found in the cool and deeper cold waters of the ocean.

Discussion Comments


Once a year I get a good deal on some really succulent clam meat from a buddy of mine that runs a wholesale seafood operation. I get like three cases of clams, tons of the things.

I've got a place out by the water and I invite everyone I know to come out and gorge themselves on the clams. We've got an operation set up out there so we can cook them right by the beach.

I am not a huge clam fan but once a year I really like to drink some beer, eat some cornbread and down a bunch of buttery clams. Makes it feel like the summer time.


I love clams of all sorts but I often end up using canned clam meat when I am cooking at home. I use a variety of zesty clam meat to make a delicious clam sauce for pasta. I don't taste a huge flavor difference and it is so much easier than trying to mess with clams in your own kitchen.

In my experience cooking your own clams is more trouble than its worth. There is a lot of mess, huge pots of boiling water and a smell that lasts forever. Leave it up to the guys at the restaurants. And give the canned kind a try. You might be surprised how tasty it is.

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