What Every Griller Needs to Know About Clams
By Steven Raichlen
- Avoid any clams (or other bivalves for that matter) with cracked shells or gapped shells that fail to close in a few seconds when you tap two clams together. Remember the cardinal shellfish rule: when in doubt, throw it out.
- Invest in a good clam knife—I like the stiff-bladed Dexter-Russell. Don’t have a clam knife? Use a butter knife.
- Invest in a shellfish rack: a wire rack that holds the littleneck shells flat and stable on the grill so you don’t loose a single drop of the explosively flavorful juices. Here’s one I designed and it easily holds two-dozen littlenecks.
- To open a clam, place it in your hand with the hinge (the narrow side where the shells join) towards the base of your thumb. Line up the sharp end of the knife with the wide edge of the clam where the top and bottom shells meet. (The blade should be parallel to the palm of your hand. Curl your four fingers around the back (non sharp) side of the blade and pull the blade through the two shells to the hinge. Cut through the adductor muscle (which holds the two shells together). Discard the top shell, then slide the knife under the clam to loosen it from the bottom shell. Place the clam on the half shell on the shellfish rack taking care not to spill the juices.
- To hold in the smoke and speed up the cooking, close the grill lid for a minute or two, or place an inverted metal pie pan over the clams.