Kitchen Myths

Facts and fiction about food and cooking, by Peter Aitken

When steaming clams or mussels, discard any that do not open

It’s widely believed that when you are steaming clams or mussels, any that do not open must be discarded. Turns out it is usually a waste of perfectly good shellfish. An unopened clam may be bad, or the shell full of mud, but in my experience they are usually fine. What I do is set the unopened ones aside and deal with them separately. In almost all cases they are very easy to open with a blunt knife and the little feller inside is just fine. When you do find a bad one, out it goes. If you find more than a very occasional bad one, you might want to buy your clams elsewhere.

As an aside, fresh clams/mussels should always be stored in the fridge in a ventilated container, never a sealed plastic bag. They are alive and use some oxygen – not much, but a sealed bag will suffocate them and then you will have a bunch of bad clams!

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