electronic Gourmet Guide

Opening a Clam #1
Opening a Clam Photo #1

How to Open a Clam


If you are a beginner you may want to wear protective gloves, as it is easy for the knife to slip. Strangely enough, I believe you are safer with a knife sharpened as I describe than a factory dull one. A dull knife is many times more likely to slip and cut you, whereas a sharp knife goes where you tell it to go.

Opening a Clam #2
Opening a Clam Photo #2


Begin by holding the knife in your right hand, rounded point to the left. The side you see is the top. The edge of the top should be ground back to taper the edge gradually for 1/4 inch. The edge of the bottom should be ground flat. By creating this taper, you will have a knife that slides between the two shells of a bivalve. At all times hold the clam steady and parallel to the floor over a clean bowl to catch the juices that drip.

Opening a Clam #3
Opening a Clam Photo #3


Hold the clam in your left hand with the curled edge to the left.


Hold the knife so that it is parallel to the plane of the line where the two shells join. Picture #1


Opening a Clam #4
Opening a Clam Photo #4

Using your left thumb to stabilize the clam, use the next two fingers of the left hand to apply pressure to the blade, so that it slides between the two shells. Picture #2


Let the knife travel as far as it can, This will cut the left adductor muscle that holds the shell closed. Picture #3

Opening a Clam #5
Opening a Clam Photo #5


Without changing your grip on the knife, rotate your right wrist so that the knuckles of your fist which were parallel to the floor, are now at right angles to it. This forces the shell open. Picture #4


Insert your left forefinger into the shell to keep it open. Run the first inch or so of the clam knife around the lip of the shell to where the left adductor muscle is attached to the top shell and cut through the muscle. Picture #5

Opening a Clam #6
Opening a Clam Photo #6


Move the tip of the knife around the rim of the shell to loosen the top veil and cut the top of the right adductor muscle. Picture #6


Still holding your knife in the right hand, use the thumb and forefinger of the right hand to grasp the upper shell and twist if off. Picture #7

Opening a Clam #7
Opening a Clam Photo #7


Put the tip of the knife under the clam at the left adductor and cut it through, Picture #8. with the same scooping motion, run the knife along the rim to cut the right adductor, Picture #9. with a little flick of your wrist, lift the clam free of the shell, and let it fall back to float freely in the shell, floating in its own juices. It should look plump and unpunctured.

Opening a Clam #8
Opening a Clam Photo #8


Notes: While oysters on the half shell are just the thing to open a formal banquet, clams on the half shell are a favorite restaurant first course. The notion of serving any less than a dozen is a crime and a shame, and will not be permitted by any true gourmand.

Opening a Clam #9
Opening a Clam Photo #9

eGGsalad No. 24



© 1996, Steve K. Holzinger. All rights reserved.

This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998.

Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.

Modified July 2007