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What is a Clam Knife?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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A clam knife is a kitchen utensil often found in both home and commercial kitchens designed to make opening clams and removing them from their shells easier and safer. This type of knife will usually have a rounded tip and a single edge that is somewhat sharp but not as sharp as a chef’s knife. Sturdy, nonslip handles are also common on such knives to best prevent slipping and injury while opening clams. A clam knife may seem like a somewhat unnecessary or luxury item, but it can make the process of opening a clam significantly faster and safer.

The blade of a clam knife is usually about three inches (about 7.6 cm) long, with a tip that is fairly rounded. One edge of the knife blade will be completely dull, while the cutting edge should be about as sharp as a butter knife or a little sharper. It should not be as sharp as a knife used for cutting meat or vegetables, since it only needs to slice through the muscles connecting the clam to the shell. The handle of the knife should be slip-resistant to avoid having a user’s hand sliding up the handle and being sliced by the blade.

A clam knife is typically used by a person holding the knife in his or her dominant hand and holding the clam in the other. The opening of the clam shell should be facing toward the person’s hand holding the knife, and the edge of the knife is held parallel to the opening. A towel can be held between the clam shell and the person’s hand to help prevent injury if the knife slips off the shell, and protective gloves can also be worn to further protect the hand holding the clam. The tip of the knife is then pushed into the clam and the edge used to both pry the shell open and slice through the muscles holding it closed.

This should typically be done over a clean bowl to catch any liquids that may escape the shell, as this liquid is filled with flavor that can be used in making chowder or other dishes. Once the muscles holding the top of the shell closed are severed with the clam knife, the shell can be opened and the clam separated from the bottom shell for serving.

Colder clams can often be simpler to open, so placing clams in a freezer for about 20 minutes before opening can make the process easier. Clams should be kept refrigerated and served in the shell on ice if raw. Any clam shells that are naturally open should be checked to ensure the clam within is still alive. The clam knife can be tapped lightly against the shell to see if it will start to close, if it does not close then the clam is dead and should not be eaten.

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