How To Clean the Sand Out of Clams

updated Dec 15, 2022
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Fresh clams on mesh bag for sale in the market. Bivalve mollusk from Galicia, Spain. Venerupis pullastra
Credit: Andres Victorero/ Getty Images

‘Tis the season for clams! Baked, grilled, steamed, or deep-fried: we’ll eat them any way we can get them.

As with cooking most shellfish at home, however, one thing can pose a challenge: What’s the best way to clean the sand out of clams? After all, crunching into gritty clam is enough to ruin anyone’s meal. That’s why we created a step-by-step guide to cleaning clams.

How to Clean Clams

Sand is particularly an issue if you buy wild or fresh clams. These guys have been spent their lives nestled snugly on the ocean floor, happily siphoning sand along with the rest of their diet. Farm-raised clams are usually cleaned and flushed of sand before they’re sold, so cleaning them isn’t as much of a concern.

  1. Tap the shells. First, gently tap any clams with open shells against the counter top. Discard any clams that do not close their shells within a few minutes or that have cracked or chipped shells.
  2. Add water. Place all the clams in a bowl and fill it with cool tap water. We’ve also heard that adding cornmeal or black pepper to the water will encourage the clams to spit out more sand.
  3. Soak. Let the clams sit for 20 minutes to an hour. During this time, they will spit out the sand from inside their shells.
  4. Scrub. When you’re ready to cook, lift each clam from the water and scrub it to clean any particles or grit from the outside surface. It’s better to lift them individually because straining them into a colander would dump the sand back on top.
  5. Cook. Once clean, clams are ready to be used in your favorite recipe! We love them straight off the grill or tossed with fresh pasta.

5 Clam Recipes to Try

Quick-cooking, flavorful clams are beautifully suited to pastas, hearty roasts, and other recipes.