The Worst Culinary Crime You Can Commit Against Canned Clams

If there were a court that adjudicated food-related crimes, what would some of the worst offenses be? Cooking pasta past al dente, swapping margarine for butter, or not bothering to sear your steak would have to be misdemeanors, at least. As far as seafood crimes, one of the worst you could commit is overcooking canned clams

While you don't want to overcook any clams, canned or fresh, the canned stuff has a much smaller margin for error. Canned clams have already been shucked, cleaned, cooked, and packed in brine by the time they reach your kitchen. Chopped clams are far preferred over fresh, as the tough work of extracting and cutting them is already done, coming either chopped or minced, as strips or whole bellies. 

So, why is it a serious culinary crime to overcook canned clams? Because they will toughen up like small rubber balls and be practically impossible to enjoy. Think how a steaming mug of chowder would be if your chewing were suddenly interrupted by a hard, waxy clam. It wouldn't be good. The solution, however, is simple. As canned clams are already cooked, all you need to do is warm them gently for a short time before using them.

How to warm canned clams in and out of the tin

There are a few ways you can warm up canned clams that will prevent them from getting too tough. The quickest and easiest is to put the tins right in the oven. First, ensure the heat is on the low side and break the seal on the tin to relieve the pressure and allow the heat to escape. Then, heat the tin for a few minutes until it emits steam. 

If this method doesn't appeal to you, you can always empty the clams into a small oven-safe dish, cover them in foil, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes. You can also prepare them by letting the clams simmer on the stovetop; you'll know the clams are warmed through when their juice begins to release into the pan. Another great way to cook the clams is simply to incorporate them straight into the dish. For pasta, chowder, or a warm salad, toss the clams in towards the end of the dishes' cooking time so they have enough time to heat up but not boil. 

There are many creative ways you can incorporate clams into meals. Whether they're baked, stuffed, added to a pizza, or warmed in their own juices, canned clams are a versatile and beloved ingredient. Just make sure you don't overcook them; The Food Court is watching.