The Most Important Thing To Look For When Buying Clams

The world of seafood is a wide one, which, undoubtedly, comes as welcome news for eaters that love everything from shrimp to scallops to mussels. Fans of clams, in particular, might already be familiar with the bivalve's incredible range, varying in size, as it does, from teeny-tiny to 1.2 meters, per Britannica. That means there are a plethora of ways to enjoy the shellfish — in a clam boil with corn, potatoes, and sausage or deep fried and served with tartar sauce and lemon.

If you love clams so much that you've been known to prepare them at home, then you're probably already familiar with some of the basic guidelines to follow when buying them, from discarding any with chipped or cracked shells (via Striped Spatula) to making sure there's no strong odor coming from the clams (via Seafood Health Facts). And though those are good rules of thumb, we haven't even mentioned the first thing you should look for. 

Live clams must be tightly closed

If you're getting ready to cook up briny grilled clams with garlic butter or elegant baked clams casino, that means you'll be heading to your local fishmonger or supermarket to check out the live clam selection. And no matter what size of clam you're buying, you're going to want to keep one rule first and foremost in your mind when selecting them — make sure the clam shells are tightly closed.

According to Kitchn, tightly closed clams indicate that the bivalves are still alive and healthy — which is, of course, the type of clam you're going to want to eat. If the clams are a little bit open, you can flick the shell to check its reflexes, the outlet notes. If the clam is alive, it will close up immediately. Because dead clams can harbor bacteria that will spoil the meat, you want to make sure to choose live ones. Note that there's one exception to this rule, and that's with soft-shelled clams. Due to their long neck, they can't close completely, so you can follow the other guidelines to choose fresh ones (via Bon Appétit).