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Quahog Clams

Updated on April 3, 2011

Quahog Clams

Large quahogs suitable for chowder.
Large quahogs suitable for chowder.

What are Quahogs?

Quahog clams range from Canada to Florida and are abundant from New England to Virginia.

Quahogs are eaten raw on the half shell, steamed, or diced for use in chowders, fritters and other clam recipes.

Quahogs are among the most commonly consumed clams of the Atlantic region. They are often found along with oysters and the two shellfish are sometimes cooked together.

Seafood markets usually sell quahog clams by size. When grading, processors measure the thickness (width) of clams, measured at the hinge.

Quahog Sizes:

Littleneck - approximately 1"
Middleneck - approximately 1.25 "
Topneck: 5-7 per pound, approximately 1.5 "
Cherrystone: 3-4 per pound, approximately 2 "
Chowder: greater than 2 "

A Field Guide to the Atlantic Seashore: From the Bay of Fundy to Cape Hatteras

How to Catch Quahog Clams

Digging wild quahogs along mud flats can be a fun family activity. A few common items are all that are needed to harvest wild quahog clams. The bare essentials are a bucket or mesh bag and a garden hand rake or "potato rake". For clamming in knee to waist deep water, a special clam rake is needed.

how to shuck a quahog clam
how to shuck a quahog clam

How to Open Quahog Clams

To the novice, opening quahog clams may seem like an insurmountable task. The process, called "shucking", is quite easy once a few important techniques are learned.

Before shucking clams, they should be rinsed thoroughly and scrubbed if necessary. When finished, they should be free from sand, mud or other debris.

The simplest way to shuck quahog clams is by placing them in a freezer for a short period, typically about 30-45 minutes. Chilling clams to just above freezing will relax and tenderize them.

The perfect situation occurs when the water inside the clam just begins to get slushy. At this point the shells may remain closed or barely gap open. 

Once the clams are chilled, they should be laid on a sturdy work surface and opened using a special clam knife.

Begin shucking by aligning the clam knife with the shell's outer edge. Carefully but firmly, push the blade between the shells, working inward.

Once the blade penetrates, use a slicing motion to cut each adductor muscle loose from one shell. The clam can now be opened easily.

Catch the clam juice in a bowl and continue cutting the clam meat away from each shell. Shuck each clam into the bowl, When all clams have been shucked, they can be rinsed in the their own juice and transferred to a second bowl.

After the rinsing process, carefully pour most of the clam juice in with the clean clams. Discard the last few ounces of juice, which may contain traces of grit or shell fragments.

Refrigerate clams immediately after shucking.

Best Quahog Clam Recipes

What is your favorite way to enjoy quahog clams?

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Best Ways To Cook and Serve Clams

Quahog clams can be cooked in a variety of ways and are even served raw in some cases.

The most famous clam dishes are chowders. Clam chowders vary by region, but most fall into one of two categories; white (New England) or red (Manhattan).

New England clam chowder is a hearty, creamy dish that is dominated by potatoes, cream and its heavy consistency. New England style chowder is a great cold weather dish and can be served for lunch or as a first course during a full dinner.

Manhattan clam chowder is an alternative style for serving these shellfish. This delicious offering contains a lighter, soup-like broth. The chowder's red color comes from tomatoes which are essential ingredients.

Another regional favorite for cooking and serving quahog clams is clam fritters. This dish is made by combining chopped raw clam meat, egg, milk, baking powder, flour and spices. The mixture is spooned into hot oil and fried until golden brown.

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