Purging Shellfish

Joined Mar 3, 2002
I've seen much conflicting advice in print on the purging of shellfish. Some of this may reflect the possibility that they were foraged from sea sites. My foraging all takes place at the fishmonger's shop. For store bought shellfish (in US) is any purging required/desirable. If so, how and how long? (I've read soaking in water, salt water, and cornmeal in water, etc. - very confusing).
Joined May 26, 2001
I've only heard of it being done with freshly-dug mussels, to get the mud out of them. Perhaps commercial growers/fisheries do it before the creatures get to the store?

Also live snails, but you're not referring to them, are you? If so, there's a very enjoyable description of how to do it in Clementine in the Kitchen, one book in the Modern Library (?)series that Ruth Reichl edited. Enjoyable to read, that is; sounds fairly disgusting to me to actually DO.
Joined Jul 31, 2000
Here on the east coast...mussels are purged with sea water as they come to shore, not sure about fresh water mussels or zebras.

The only clam I purge are steamers,and I use the corn meal method.
Joined Feb 11, 2002
How do you purge the steamers with cornmeal?
I have a Dutch friend, a mad gourmand, who eats his garden snails.
He feeds them on a diet of herbs and arugula, and then about 3 days before before eating, purges them with cornmeal.(He has a big basin sink he keeps them in). He says they're fabulous. I have yet to eat them...:rolleyes:
Joined Jun 11, 2001
Here in the sunny south we have an occasional crawfish boil or two. Part of the process of this is purging the live crawfish in a mixture of salt (lots) and water in a big tub, letting them sit in this solution for 15 minutes or so then rinsing well with fresh water before boiling. Note this is with live shellfish. One of the keys to crawfish is of course don't cook dead ones, and don't eat any that come out with a flat rather than curled tail.
Joined Jul 31, 2000

That's also how I purge my steamers...

When in Cape Cod, after a day of digging in the salt pond by coast guard beach, we load the steamers and hard shell clams in the van, head back to the cottage and the steamers go in the sink with cold water and cornmeal for 45 minutes...then I rinse them many times to get the surface muck off of them.

The little necks are eaten on the half shell,the cherrystones I slather with herb and garlic butter, and they go on the grill, and the quahaogs I make chowder.

The steamers really come out clean after they soak with the corn meal


Staff member
Joined Oct 7, 2001
I purge all my clams with cornmeal. I do not purge my oysters, but I make sure that the shell gets a good scrubbing before I use them.
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