Use Fresh Clams For The Best Tasting Soups And Chowders

Clam chowder has been a staple all around the country since colonial times. There are three major types: the creamy richness of New England clam chowder with milk and cream, the tangy tomato goodness of Manhattan-style chowder, or the clear, brothy charm of Rhode Island-style chowder. No matter your preference, a single spoonful is a blessing in the colder months of the year. Beyond the regional style, what really makes or breaks your chowder are the clams. Even if it takes a bit more effort to prepare, you should definitely opt for fresh instead of canned clams!

The reason is simple: Fresh clams simply have a flavor that's hard to beat — oceanic and briny, thanks to their natural seawater content, which adds a unique depth of flavor to the chowder. Plus, it's briny enough that you don't need to add any extra salt at all! Canned clams lack this briny taste since most of their natural seawater content is lost during the canning process and what saltiness they do bring comes from the brine they're packed with as a preservative.

Additionally, fresh clams have a much more tender texture compared to canned clams. Because of this, whether by taste or texture, you can easily distinguish between soups or chowders made with fresh clams and those made with canned ones. It's just that distinctive!

Fresh and canned clams both get the job done, though the latter won't be as good

To make a soup or chowder from fresh clams, start by purchasing live clams from a seafood market. The clams are then shucked, processed, and plated quickly, much like other delicate seafood, such as lobsters (shellfish are best used within 24 hours of being shucked). As a result, by the time they get into the dish, the clams should still have most of their natural flavors and texture, all of which will be a boon for your chowder.

Canned clams, on the other hand, are pre-cooked in a factory and then packed in tin cans with brine to ensure shelf stability. While modern canning technology has improved to the point that canned clams can taste very close to the fresh stuff, especially if you opt for a reputable brand, they still won't be able to beat the flavor or texture of fresh clams.

Both fresh and canned clams have a place in your kitchen. Canned clams will be passable for making chowder in a pinch but they're not quite optimal. If you're aiming for the best clam soup or chowder with an authentic and robust flavor, the extra effort of using fresh clams will pay off handsomely!