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July 10, 2012

Experts' Experts: Steaming Clams

From the "Kitchen Notes" feature of the July & August issue of Cook's Illustrated: "When cooking hard-shell clams in the test kitchen, we've noticed that there can be as much as a five-minute difference between when the first clam opens and the last clam opens (indicating doneness). Clams can easily overcook once opened, leaving them chewy and shriveled. To ensure perfectly cooked clams, remove each as it opens and hold them in a plate-covered bowl, where they'll stay warm while the rest of the clams finish cooking. This method becomes unwieldy when cooking loads of clams, but if it's just a dozen or two, we've found that it's well worth the extra effort to guarantee the best texture."

July 10, 2012 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


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I figured out this possibly-obsessive technique myself a few weeks ago. It works perfectly, and it was interesting to see that the internal temperature of each clam was around 150 F as measured by a Thermoworks Thermapen. It is better to use a steaming basket, otherwise the clams are being partly boiled rather than steamed.

Posted by: Charles E Flynn | Jul 10, 2012 11:15:31 PM

I hope you geezers will have exchanges more often - it's very entertaining.

Posted by: Flautist | Jul 10, 2012 2:00:32 PM

I demur. I used the word "shuck" in its common parlance, i.e. opening a raw clam and removing its contents. Few people under 30 even know what a "church key" is in this context — much less have one at home. As geezers, you and I find them indispensable but we must look at things as do hoi polloi to properly gain a sense of the crowd in this regard.

Employing a microwave, towel, hammer, sauté pan, et al. seems to me a lot more work and much messier than simply putting the clams in a pot and removing them as they open.

But then, I'm a ClamDolt®™©.

Posted by: bookofjoe | Jul 10, 2012 1:13:33 PM

And, you would lose that bet, assuming that you still own a "church key" or a towel and a small hammer or a microwaive oven.

I have to run, but I'd bet that a quick search of YouTube would find Julia Child's use of a bottle opener to open both oysters and clams. Putting your clams on a plate and zapping them for 30 sec opens nice, raw clams, and wrapping a clam in a dish towel and cracking the shell with a hammer works, too.

Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Jul 10, 2012 1:02:33 PM

I would venture that not one in a hundred people who love steamed clams have the proper clam opening tools and protective gear required to shuck them properly and safely.

Posted by: bookofjoe | Jul 10, 2012 12:44:26 PM

I subscribe to Cook's - and they are usually very good at what they do - but micromanaging a micro number of clams tips the scale over to the OCD side.

Ya want a dozen perfectly cooked clams - shuck the suckers and sauté.

Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Jul 10, 2012 11:51:44 AM

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