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"Until Clams Open"

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I'm learning how to cook clams and have been steaming them. Virtually every recipe uses some form of the "until open" instruction, and I'd like to check that I'm interpreting this correctly.

Does this mean that clams are only supposed to no longer be closed (i.e. a centimeter or two of space qualifies as open) or that they're supposed to pop wide open (as some seem to very quickly, but others do not)?

I have been using the first interpretation and haven't gotten sick or anything, but I thought I'd check and see if that's correct or if I've just been lucky.

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  1. If you steam clams or mussels, or cook them with pasta, the safe rule is to toss out those that remain closed.

    2 Replies
    1. re: SWISSAIRE

      Sure, but I'm wondering what degree of openness indicates that safe clams have been cooked.

      1. re: lamb_da_calculus

        You are overthinking this. Open is open. Closed is closed. There is no degree. If the clams stay closed, they were dead before you started. Dead clams = gastrointestinal misery. Open means they were alive, you are good to go.

        It's like partially pregnant - no such thing. You either are, or you aren't. ;)

    2. I know what you're talking about. I sometimes notice some clams opening completely and others only a bit. I use any that open at all and get rid of the rest that remain completely closed. Enjoy your clams!
      JeremyEG
      HomeCookLocavore.com

      1. Remember, too, to toss any clams that are open before you cook them that fail to close as you're rinsing/scrubbing them. Those are already dead, and you don't want to eat them.

        1. some stick, some are dead.but if you can get a thick bread knife through them then they should be ok. Clams have an incredibly strong muscle to keep themselves shut. Dead ones never release. Sometimes ones that are far down in the pot are compressed by those above so only open a little. If you have 1/8-1/4 inch opening or more, you s/b ok

          1. I have found that clams take twice as long (or even longer) to open vs. mussels. Maybe the thickness of their shells has something to do with it... but don't know.

            On average, if I am steaming it takes 3 to 5 minutes for mussels to open while clams can take 10 minutes or more. And I have also found, some clams don't open very much whereas virtually all mussels open quite a bit.