Steamer Clams, New England Style

Steamers are soft-shell Atlantic clams, easily identified by the siphon that protrudes from one side of the shell. Sometimes known as long-necks, steamers have a sweet, lightly briny flavor and tender texture. Their shells are not actually soft, just a good deal thinner than hard-shelled varieties like quahogs, littlenecks and cherrystones. We like them cooked and served in the traditional New England style. They’re very easy to prepare and make a wonderful prelude to a fresh seafood dinner.

Steamer Clams, New England Style

Steamer Clams, New England Style

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Steamer clams, aka soft-shell clams, are sweet, tender and slightly briny and make a delicious appetizer simply served with a little melted butter and fresh lemon.


  • 4 lbs steamer clams
  • 1/4 lb unsalted butter
  • 1 lemon


  1. Soak the clams according to the directions listed in the tips below
  2. Add about 1-inch of water to the bottom of a large pot with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a simmer, then add the clams. Cover the pot and steam until all of the shells have opened wide, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  3. While the clams are cooking, melt the butter and add the juice from half the lemon. Pour the butter into individual serving dishes and set aside. Cut the remaining half of the lemon into 4 wedges for serving.
  4. Once all the clams have opened fully, carefully scoop them into a bowl. Pour the broth into individual serving dishes for dipping.
  5. Note: You may want to strain the broth through cheesecloth if you see any sand accumulated in the bottom.
  6. To eat, remove the clam from the shell and strip the skin off the neck. Dip it first in the broth, then in the butter.


Tips for preparing steamer clams:

Because soft-shell clams don't close tightly like their hard-shell cousins, they might contain a little sand. To get them clean before cooking, place them in a large bowl and cover with salted water - 1/3 cup of salt per quart of water, dissolved.

A two to three hour soak should be adequate. Drain and rinse lightly under cold water.

Once the clams are cooked, handle them gently - they can fall out of the shells rather easily.