Learn How to Steam Clams without a steamer. From the cleaning process to the steaming process, to a flavorful Cajun-inspired recipe. This easy-to-follow step-by-step tutorial is all you need to create perfectly tender steamed clams.
A Little Background Info
Clams are filter feeders. They do not have a head or mouth, so they feed on microscopic particles from the water which is pulled in through one of their siphons (a tube-like structure that is used for the exchange of liquid or air).
As water passes through gills, particles become trapped. Clams also live buried under sand and mud and if not cleaned properly they will taste like sand and grit.
Before you begin steaming clams, you must first go through the process of thoroughly cleaning them. Although there are many videos on how to clean clams; I'll walk you through a simple process for getting perfectly cleaned clams.
Prepping live clams before steaming them can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. Once you learn this simple process, you'll feel more confident in your ability to clean clams and make delicious recipes using fresh clams.
Essentials Needed for Cleaning Clams
Large bowls: A large bowl (possibly 2), or you can use your kitchen sink instead of a 2nd bowl. If you have a double bowl kitchen sink that's even better and is what I use.
Scrub brush: A clean chemical-free scrub brush for scrubbing the outer surface of the clams.
Water: Water is used for soaking the clams.
Salt: Salt is used to mimic salt water.
- Live clams
- For this recipe, I used a Cajun marinade; however, you can create a marinade using any of your favorite seasonings.
Homemade Cajun Marinade
- Grape-seed oil
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Dried thyme
- Cayenne pepper
- Red pepper flakes
- Smoked paprika
- Pinch of salt
How to Clean Clams
Cleaning clams is the most important step before steaming them. This requires patience but is very simple to do. Here, I'll provide an overview; however, please refer to the recipe card below for more details.
- This process will require 3 rounds of soaking your clams for 20 minutes to ensure that the sand is completely removed, so you're left with perfectly clean clams:
- Using your finger, gently tap on any clams that are slightly opened to see if they will close. If they do not close, discard as those are most likely no longer alive.
- Place clams into a large bowl, alternatively, if you have a double-bowl kitchen sink clean it, and place the clams on one side leaving the other side empty for now.
- Cover the clams with water and add a few tablespoons of salt (the salt is intended to mimic salt water). Using your hand, agitate the water by giving a big swirl.
Round 1: Soak the clams for 20 minutes then remove the clams from the sink/bowl and place them on the other side of the double-bowl sink or into a different bowl. (TIP: Lift the clams out of the water using your hands and place them into a clean bowl, so you will not transfer the sand) . Empty the sink/bowl used for soaking and replace it with fresh water and salt.
Round 2: Repeat Round 1 by soaking for another 20 minutes in freshly made salt water and lifting them out again with your hands and place them into the clean side of the sink/bowl.
Round 3: Repeat Round 1 again but this time gently scrub the outer surface of the shell with a chemical-free scrub brush. Lift the clams out again with your hands and place into the clean side of the sink/bowl. Then, give a final rinse.
How to Steam Clams
After thoroughly cleaning your clams, learning how to steam clams is a really simple process.
- Place clean clams in large bowl.
- In a wide sauce pan, saute minced garlic until fragrant.
- Cover the bottom surface of the saucepan with water or white wine.
- Gently place clams in the saucepan into a single layer (do not overlap) which is why a wide saucepan is great for this.
- Cover the saucepan and allow the clams to steam for 3 to 5 minutes (you'll hear the clams as they start to open).
- Remove any clams that didn't open and discard immediately.
- Remove the remaining liquid from the saucepan.
- Drizzle the Cajun marinade and fresh lime juice over the top of the exposed clams.
- Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately.
- Add to a serving dish or platter and enjoy.
This process on how to steam clams with the most flavorful Cajun marinade is that simple and makes for the most tender and delicious clams.
It should take between 3 to 5 minutes to steam clams. If you steam for too long they can overcook and taste rubbery.
No, dead clams will not opened when steamed and should be thrown away immediately.
After cleaning your clams thoroughly, add grapeseed oil, olive olive, or butter to a wide-mouth sauce pan over medium heat, add minced garlic and saute until fragrant, add water or a quality white wine to cover the bottom of the sauce pan. Add your cleaned clams and cover with a lid. Allow your clams to steam for 3 to 5 minutes at which time they will open. Remove from heat and add a drizzle a Cajun marinade and toss until coated. Add a squeeze of lemon or lime and enjoy.
- Clean clams thoroughly using the steps above before cooking them.
- Use a chemical-free scrub brush to scrub away any dirt or debris that could be adhered to the outer surface of the shell.
- You can use water or white wine during the cooking process.
- When placing the clams in the saucepan, make sure clams are in a single layer and do not crowd the pan if not they will not open.
- There is a possibility that every clam in your saucepan may not open after they have been steamed; therefore, throw away any that do not open.
If you're looking to take your steamed clams to the next level, you gotta add this Cajun inspired marinade to the mix. This flavorful blend is all you need to enhance the taste of this restaurant-worthy clam recipe.
Other Seafood Recipe
Did you make this recipe?
If so, let me know how it went. Leave a 'Star Rating' within the recipe card down below and/or TAG @cookingwithbliss on Instagram. I can't wait to see how it turned out.
How to Steam Clams
- 2 Large bowls or double sink
- 1 Scrub brush
- Kosher salt
- 5 lbs fresh clams
- ½ cup water (or ½ cup white wine (the amount of the liquid will depend on the size of the saucepan))
- ¼ cup grape-seed oil ((or extra virgin olive oil))
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoon cayenne (adjust the amount depending on your spice level)
- 2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
How to Clean Clams
- Round 1- Check that all clams are closed. If clams aren't closed, gently tap on the shell with your finger to see if they close. If they do not close, discard. In large bowl or clean kitchen sink, fill with water. Add salt and agitate the water by giving a swirl. Gently place clams in salted water for 20 minutes. Remove clams with hands and place in an empty clean bowl or other side of the sink if you have a double-bowl kitchen sink. Pour dirty water out of 1st bowl or if using sink, drain water from sink and replace with clean water and salt.
- Round 2 - Repeat Round 1 by soaking clams for another 20 minutes in fresh salted water and lifting them out again with your hands and place into the clean side of the sink or bowl.
- Round 3 - Repeat Round 1 again but this time gently scrub the clam shells with a chemical-free scrub brush. Lift the clams out of the water again with your hands and place into the clean side of the sink/bowl. Then, give a final rinse.
How to Steam Clams
- Over medium heat add grape-seed oil to saucepan. Add freshly minced garlic and saute until fragrant.
- Then, add water or wine to cover the bottom of sauce pan. Add clams in a single layer. Cover with lid and steam clams for 3 to 5 minutes until clams open.
- Remove from heat and discard any unopened clams immediately. Drizzle Cajun marinade and fresh lime juice over exposed clams and stir until all clams are coated. Place on a serving dish or platter.
- Garnish with cilantro (optional) and serve immediately.
- Clean clams thoroughly before steaming them
- Use a chemical-free scrub brush to scrub the outer surface of the shell from debris and dirt
- When adding clams to the saucepan, make sure clams are in a single layer and do not overcrowd the saucepan
- Do not add clams on top of each other as this will prevent the clams on the bottom from opening
- Do not overcook clams as they will taste rubbery
- You do not need much liquid in the saucepan to steam clams