Should clams open when cooked?

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by abefroman, Jul 1, 2011.

  1. abefroman

    abefroman

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    Should clams open when cooked?     What does it mean if they open or not open?

    TIA
     
  2. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    Safe to eat clams will open when cooked, if they don't, discard them!

    Same for mussels, cockles, and other bivalves.
     
  3. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    If it doesn't open, it means it died before you cooked it. And is not safe to eat.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2011
  4. brownedoff

    brownedoff

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    Worth noting that clams open a bit later in the cooking process than some other bivalves. They must be served as soon as they open or they will be overcooked.
     
  5. abefroman

    abefroman

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    Thanks!  Do oysters open?
     
  6. siduri

    siduri

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    I always wondered, since when i first came to italy there had been a few cases of cholera tied to naples clams.  I knew that you should only eat the open ones, but the question i had is, doesn't the bacteria or whatever it is leak out into the sauce anyway, if they;re contaminated?
     
  7. chefross

    chefross

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    I grill oysters on the BBQ and when they heat up, they open as well. Great with herb butter and white wine sauce.
     
  8. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

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    Wash the clams, make sure they are all closed and in good condition. This photo shows the clams being steamed in a Chippino style sauce for a Spaghetti and Red clam sauce.

     

    As you can see they are all open and ready to be tossed with the spaghetti.

     

    All the juices of the clams flavor the sauce for a spicy rich tomato base sauce....you can stop here and eat the clams with the sauce and mop up the sauce with Garlic bread or toss with spaghetti or Linguine........

     

    Most Chefs would not steam the clams in a think sauce like this for fear for burning the sauce. I had all the fear in the first 5 years in this business, after doing it for so long, you just know it's going to be good..................Siduri, there is a nice little Restaurant near the train station in Venice ( Mom and Pop) that makes a nice steam clam plate, with crusty bread and a glass of wine for a perfect afternoon treat.........................Hope your doing well.............Bill
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2011
  9. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    I always wondered the same thing but I go ahead and eat the sauce anyway after I discard the closed clam.

    Worth noting that before you cook the clam it must be closed, discard the ones that are open.
     
  10. siduri

    siduri

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    When I make a clam sauce, i fry the clams in oil and garlic with a bit of hot pepper.  When they open, i remove the clams from the pan, leaving the oil and liqueur that's come out of them, and add white wine.  I let it cook down to somewhat syrupy consistency and put it aside with the clams.    Then  put more oil, smashed garlic and hot pepper in the pan.  Sautee until the garlic is soft and then add fresh peeled tomatoes (or any good canned tomato) and let it cook, adding salt as needed.  After very little cooking (they should make a light fresh sauce, not a ragu type sauce) i add the clams and the juice - let it heat through and put on freshly drained spaghetti or linguine, and mix well.  Sprinkle fresh chopped parsley on top. 

    This way, the clams that haven't opened are discarded at the beginning, though that's not the reason i do it, i think it tastes better that way. 
     
  11. jack burton

    jack burton

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    To answer your question, I think whatever bacteria leaks out will be killed by the sauce temp.  Clams aren't fully cooked.  They're just steamed until they open which means enough heat to kill the clam.  I think if you took a dead clam, forced it open and cooked it further to actually get the internal temp high enough, you could eat it but I wouldn't recommend this.  If you ever order a raw platter and the kitchen has already squirted lemon on the clams, they're most likely used to dealing with old and possibly dead clams because they smell like crap.
     
  12. pcieluck

    pcieluck

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    Just out of curiosity. Someone once told me that when clams open they get one more breath, and that breath is what kills them.  For that reason, I was taught that if you're using wine in a clam dish, you should steam the clams in them so that last breath makes them taste like wine. However, you're putting in the wine after they open. Have I been mislead?
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2011
  13. siduri

    siduri

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    My method is entirely intuitive, Pcieluck, and i have no idea if clams "breathe" at all - since not even fish have lungs.  I wouldn't like clams that taste of raw wine, anyway, and i imagine it would not cook down to a syrup if some of it ended up inside the clams. At least what gets caught in the clam would not boil down.  

    And i take them out of the pan before adding the wine anyway.  (Again, all intuitive - i don't know the science of it, but i generally don't like meat or fish or practically anything that's boiled in a liquid, so i fry them and remove them, then add the liquid.  Obviously the insides of clams in their shells don't "fry" either, so probably this technique is all off. My reasoning is that if they leak out their liquor, that will flavor the sauce, but if they boil in a liquid they will lose their own flavor to the sauce.  But maybe I'm completely wrong.)

    Anyway, cooking meat (which is dead) gets flavored by whatever it cooks in, without it having to breathe it in, no?
     
  14. eastshores

    eastshores

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    This kind of disturbed me after partook in clam digging as we have nice clams along the coast 20 minutes away. These were incredibly fresh.. i.e. I doug them myself and put them straight onto ice. Still that evening.. I tried to shuck them and couldn't seem to do it. So we decided to try to steam them open (we wanted to make chowder) .. they took so long I questioned whether it was normal. It made it hard to eat.. and ultimately we didn't eat much at all.. just "tasted" it.. which now seems like a real travesty.

    What I find odd though, is if you are to shuck a clam, it may be dead already if you judge by the idea that it "never opened" .. yet it is common to shuck clams. It is quite confusing to me.

    Easier to get, but possibly more risky are oysters in my area. I suppose it might be less safe buying in complete ignorance from the "super market"
     
  15. siduri

    siduri

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    My understanding is that if you sit them in water, they will eventually relax and open up.  Those that don't are dead and you throw them out.  Then when you move them they clamp shut, so those that stay open are dead.  and then when you cook them they open up again if they were ok, those that don;t open you throw out. 

    Now i never ate (nor will i ever eat, since they just don't look appealing) raw clams, so my knowledge is not complete on this. 
     
     
  16. jack burton

    jack burton

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    That's as I understand it to.  You pull the clam out and give the shell a flick and he should close up.  Wild clams have a lot of crap in them too so I'd definitely soak them in water with corn meal.
     
     
  17. eastshores

    eastshores

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    Yea it was something I read about when we decided to go dig for them. From what I understood you could make a mix of salt and water to try to match the salinity of the natural environment, then put cornmeal in and they would purge themselves eating the cornmeal which was supposed to get rid of grit/sediment. Since our disaster I haven't gone back out because I believe I should never harvest something that I do not make good use of. Maybe this fall/winter I will give it another go.
     
  18. mattyl

    mattyl

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    I've lived on the shore of Sullivan's island in South Carolina and numerous places on Long Island. During those years I dug and cooked fresh steamers, little necks and harvested oysters. I obtained my knowledge of safe eating from the locals and it hasn't killed me yet. I was told that fresh little necks should close when squeezed. Steamers shoul retract their necks when touched and an oyster shouldn't be open when fresh. After cooking the hard shelled mollusks should open. Even slightly. Some of them are stronger and may open slightly but should open. Steamers don't need to open as their shells are soft and permeable and because they are easily checked before cooking they are much safer to eat. Storage should be in refrigerator if eaten In 2 days. Freezer if longer. Most people would put them on ice or in freezer prior to shucking because it relaxes the clam/oyster and allows for and easier job. I found that the freezer for 10 mins works best
     
  19. mikelm

    mikelm

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    When we lived on the water on Bainbridge Island, Puget Sound, we dug clams literally in our front yard, and brought them in a bucket of seawater back to the house, added some cornmeal, and let them sit for three or four hours. That seemed to clean them out nicely.

    The oysters we pried from the waters-edge rocks we set level on the BBQ and when they opened, used a turkey baster to squirt in some heavy cream with a lot of garlic in it. 

    Saturday mornings I would put on a wet suit and swim out a hundred feet or so and spear a couple of rockfish for lunch.  I dropped the fillets on the hot barbie and they would try to jump off. Those were fresh fish!

    In winter-evening low tides we would go out with a Coleman lantern and dip nets and scoop up a half-dozen Dungeness crabs.  A neighborhood feast followed.

    Missed it ever since we had to leave after the Seattle economy collapsed in 1969-70. Over a period of ten or so months Boeing laid off 73.000 people in Seattle and grass was growing in the streets. There really was a large billboard alongside I-5 just north of the Oregon border that said "Will The Last Person to Leave Seattle Please Turn Off the Lights."  We drove past it on the way back to Santa Barbara.

    Mike