6 Types of Clams and How They Are Best Served

Get the lowdown on a half-dozen varieties of clams.

Types of clams - guide to different clam varieties
Photo: Getty Images

Fish stores have several names for the types of clams you can buy. Some shops refer to the variety of clam, and some vendors refer to the size when labeling. Either way, it's important to be able to identify common clam types.

In fact, the clams you enjoy raw on the half shell aren't the same as the ones you toss with your linguine. Whether you're planning a clambake or hoping to make some clam chowder at home, our clam guide will have you picking a littleneck from a manila in no time.

01 of 06

Hard Shell Clams

Types of clams - Hard Shell clam picture
Illustration by Melinda Josie

Taste/texture: mild, sweet, and briny

Best served: raw on the half shell; cut up in chowder; or stuffed

Helpful tip: Varieties include littlenecks, top necks, cherrystones, and chowders.

02 of 06

Soft Shell Clams (Steamers)

Types of clams - Soft Shell (Steamers) clam picture
Illustration by Melinda Josie

Taste/texture: sweet and slightly salty, with tender bellies

Best served: steamed and dipped in butter

Helpful tip: Soak them in salted water to purge grit.

03 of 06

Cockles

Types of clams - Cockles
Illustration by Melinda Josie

Taste/texture: slightly sweet and delicate

Best served: in sauces and pastas

Helpful tip: Cockles cook quickly; remove from heat the second they open.

04 of 06

Manila Clams

Types of clams - Manila Clams picture
Illustration by Melinda Josie

Taste/texture: extra salty and briny

Best served: in sauces and pastas; steamed

Helpful tip: These make a pretty presentation steamed; the interior of the shells are rimmed with deep purple.

05 of 06

Surf Clams

Types of clams - Surf Clams picture
Illustration by Melinda Josie

Taste/texture: mild, sweet, and chewy—almost tough, so never eaten raw

Best served: fried

Helpful tip: Surf clams are almost always sold in cans. Use the juices to boost flavor in soups and pastas.

06 of 06

Razor Clams

Types of clams - Razor Clams picture
Illustration by Melinda Josie

Taste/texture: mild and meaty

Best served: steamed; broiled; chopped in salads

Helpful tip: Razors can be hard to find and difficult to clean; order them when you eat out.

Clam Type Chart

Types of Clams: Chart and pictures with types of clams, taste, tips, and pictures
Illustrations by Melinda Josie

When you're ready to get shucking, clean the clam, then grab a clam knife and practice your technique: Slip the rounded end into the seam where the shells meet and twist it (like you're turning a key in a lock). With the correct technique (and the right clams, of course), you'll be set for the shellfish meal of your dreams in no time.

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