The summer months are the perfect time to host an outdoor clambake on the beach or even in your own backyard. A traditional New England clambake can take all day to prepare, but when you’re with family and friends, that’s just part of the fun. Fresh clams, lobster, mussels, crabs and a host of vegetables steamed to perfection create a festive and tasty summer night meal.
7 Tips to host a clambake
Clambake tip #1: Dig a pit
Usually, a clambake is done in a deep, large pit dug in the sand or loose dirt lined with stones and heated with a wood fire for a few hours, to make the stones really hot. You also can do clambakes in a large pot, which is more realistic if you’re a clambake first-timer or don’t have an afternoon to dig a pit.
Clambake tip #2: Gather your ingredients
Most clambakes include clams of all different shapes and sizes, including steamers, littlenecks, Quahogs, cherrystones and others. You also can throw lobster, crabs, oysters, mussels, shrimp, scallops and prawns in the bunch. Additionally, corn, potatoes, onions, carrots and sausage add flavor.
Clambake tip #3: Line the pit
If you are cooking the clambake in a pit, use seaweed to cover the rocks to give the ingredients something to lay on as well as to help steam the fish. If you are using the pot method, seaweed isn’t necessary.
Clambake tip #4: Wrap up your shellfish
If you are using the pit method, wrap all of the ingredients in foil or cheesecloth in groups (i.e. clams with clams, prawns with prawns, potatoes with potatoes etc.). If cooking in a pot, you can forgo wrapping the foods and simply use a steamer rack to hold them.
Clambake tip #5: Steam away
Whether you are using the pit method or the pot method, steaming is the process for cooking your shellfish and veggies. For best results, layer the ingredients, starting with the longest-steaming item on the bottom (which in most cases is the potatoes) and then layering up to the item that will take the least amount of time to be cooked (usually the crab or lobster).
Clambake tip #6: Cover the pit
If using a pit, cover the ingredients with more seaweed, then a large tarp soaked in seawater. Tie the tarp down with rocks or stakes. The pit method, for a 2-foot-square pit, will take about two hours to cook, depending on how big the pit is and how many items you have in it. Don’t lift the tarp until the food is done to ensure no steam is released. If you are using a pot, cover it with a lid to properly steam food. A pot clambake usually takes an hour less time than a pit.
Clambake tip #7: Serve with accompaniments
Serve your clambake foods with a variety of tasty sides and condiments. Try melted butter, lemon wedges, Old Bay seasoning and slaws. If you cooked your clambake in a pot, pour the flavorful liquid from the bottom of the pot into serving bowls and pair it with crusty bread for dipping.