When it comes to summer celebrations, we can’t get enough of a classic clambake on the beach. These seaside soirees make use of freshly caught seafood, and as more casual affairs, they’re a great way to bring friends and family together. So grab your favorite New England-style recipes and start planning your summer clambake today.
What Is a Clambake?
Quite simply, a clambake is a celebration of seafood and all that summer has to offer. Most clambakes include clams, of course, but also a bounty of other seafood like crab legs and lobster. You’ll also find steamed potatoes, corn on the cob, fresh lemon and all the melted butter you could possibly ask for.
Clambakes are most popular on the coasts where fresh clams, lobster and crab are plentiful, though you’ll find similar traditions all over the country like low country boils in the South and fish boils in parts of the Midwest. Whatever you serve up, we love clambakes and boils because they’re casual and fun—spread your dishes across the picnic table or on platters and you’re ready to go (no fussy placesetting needed).
How to Prepare a Traditional Clambake
Traditionally, a clambake is prepared by digging a hole in the ground—if you’re near the beach, even better. The bottom of the hole is layered with large stones and a fire is lit on top. This fire blazes for a few hours allowing those rocks—what’s really going to cook the clams—to get nice and hot. Once the stones are ready, rake your coals and layer on all of your clambake ingredients. Bundle clams, corn and more in cheesecloth, mesh baskets or foil packets and place on top of the rocks. This is traditionally covered up with seaweed to keep some of that heat in. When everything is done—this can take about two hours—serve it all up with toasted bread, butter and plenty of iced tea.
How to Host a Clambake Anywhere—Not Just Seaside
You don’t need to be summering on the cape to enjoy a clambake. Seafood lovers coast to coast can enjoy this summer tradition—no digging required.
To enjoy a clambake wherever you call home, you can skip digging in the sand and instead fire up the grill. Using all the classic clambake flavors plus a few disposable roasting pans, you can create a clambake easily with this recipe. All you have to do is wrap the clams and other ingredients in foil and grill. In about 30 minutes, you’ll have a New England-style clambake ready. Just be sure to serve it up alongside your favorite summer sides and maybe even a signature beverage.
With all the butter, lobster shells and corn cobs, clambakes can be wonderfully messy affairs. Stock up on some disposable lobster or crab bibs for laughs (and to protect your summer party attire).
How to Shop for the Best Seafood
With the right clambake recipes and the best seafood, folks will be talking about your party all summer long. Learn how to find the freshest seafood for your shindig.
- Shopping for clams: If you live near the coast, opt for fresh, live clams at a local fishmonger or reputable grocer. Their shells should be tightly closed. If not, give the shell a tap. Clams that close up after a tap are still good—ones that remain open should be discarded. If live clams aren’t available near you, you can opt for frozen. Chat with your grocer about the brands they prefer.
- Shopping for crab legs: Consider yourself a seafood expert? Feel free to cook fresh, live crabs humanely. Otherwise, you can purchase fresh or frozen crab legs. Be sure the meat inside looks pure white (avoid any with a gray hue).
- Shopping for lobster: You can find live lobsters at many supermarkets and fishmongers. Ask an expert there about which lobsters look best. You can also opt for frozen lobster tails as we did in this recipe. Like crab, look for pure white meat inside and if you see any ice crystals inside—skip it.
- Shopping for fish: Fish of any kind can be a welcome addition to a clambake. Avoid fish that has an unpleasantly fishy smell. Instead look for firm flesh, clear eyes and healthy looking gills. You can consult our complete checklist for fish shopping, too.
With these recipes and a few tips, you’re well on your way to hosting a cool and casual clambake.
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