Clams are a treat no matter how they are prepared: steamed, sauced, fried, and fresh from the shell.
Both saltwater and freshwater clams are harvested for commercial sale, with the ocean varieties considered superior in taste. Hardshell (consumed raw or cooked) and softshell (generally cooked) clams are found within these two groups.
Commonly harvested clams include quahogs, razorshell, steamers, geoducks,
Purchase only clams that have tightly closed or responsive shells. If one is partially open, it should close when touched. Most commercial markets sell clams that have already been sand-purged.
There is some risk of PSP (paralytic shellfish poisoning) from clams obtained through unreliable dealers or by digging them yourself. Reputable harvesters are regulated and each batch is tested to minimize this potentially fatal occurrence.
When buying unshelled clams, ask about the proper shucking and trimming method. This will vary depending on species.
Scrub in-shell clams, cover with a wet towel, and keep cold. Immerse shucked clams in a bowl of water and refrigerate. Cook within two days. The same applies to canned or pre-frozen products.
Clams freeze well for up to three months. While those still in the shell can be stored in water-filled bags, this is not recommended. Clean, shuck, and place in a container with the broth. Do not refreeze once thawed.
• If a clam shell has not opened during cooking, it should not be eaten. Any that float to the surface before boiling should also be discarded.
• Always reserve the clam juice for use in stocks and soups.
• Smaller clams are easier to steam.
• When shucking a clam, always drape your hand with a thick towel. It is very easy to let a knife slip when opening the shell. Work over a large bowl to collect the liquid (broth) inside the shell.
• Larger, tougher clams can be used in chowders as the longer cooking time will tenderize the meat.
• Raw or cooked clams pair well with any white wine