Are Fresh Clams Salty?

Nothing is as delicious as a bowl of clam chowder or pasta topped with perfectly cooked clams. But, it’s worth knowing how to identify fresh clams if you’re attempting to make a clam recipe. So, are fresh clams salty?

Fresh clams have a salty taste. They should be plump and smell like the ocean when raw. Once cooked, clams have a chewy texture and salty, pleasantly fishy taste. If you notice your clams are too salty, you can purge them in fresh water before cooking them to remove the salt and grit.

Although clams are delicious, they sometimes have the potential to become overly salty, and this can ruin the entire dish. Therefore, buying suitable clams and correctly preparing them is key to ensuring you have a delicious clam meal. This article discusses preparing clams, so they aren’t too salty and choosing the freshest clams at the store.

Do Fresh Clams Taste Salty?

Clams filter water through their bodies as they breathe. This is how they get nutrients and food. Therefore, clams have a salty taste when cooked. However, to prevent your clams from being too salty, purge them of the salt before cooking them.

When cooking with clams, starting with the freshest clams is essential. These clams will have a slightly salty taste, but this can be remedied, so they don’t taste overly salty. However, if you’re using frozen or canned clams, there isn’t much you can do to prevent them from being too salty.

Therefore, to prevent the clams from being too salty, you must buy the right clams. This is what to look for when purchasing clams:

Notice how the clams smell. Fresh clams should smell like the ocean. Therefore, they should have a fresh ocean smell. If the clams smell fishy or pungent, they aren’t fresh anymore. Don’t buy these clams as they can make you ill.

Look out for how the clams are packaged. Live, fresh clams should be kept on ice in a breathable bag. If the clams are packed in a vacuum-sealed plastic bag, they aren’t fresh. These are dead clams and are likely kept in a brine solution. Although these clams are fine to eat, they may taste very salty due to the brine solution. You also cannot purge the salt from dead clams.

Don’t buy broken or chipped shelled clams. If the clams’ shells are broken, cracked, or chipped, the clams aren’t alive and can make you gravely ill if you eat them. Therefore, look for clams with glossy, whole shells.

If you buy fresh clams, there is a greater chance of the clams having a fresh, slightly salty taste. Therefore, when preparing fresh clams for cooking, it’s important to purge them first.

How To Purge And Clean Fresh Clams

The packaging might say that the clams have already been cleaned from sand and salt when purchasing clams. However, experts recommend you always purge your clams before cooking them to ensure there isn’t any salt or grit in the meat or shells when you cook them.

Fortunately, purging clams of salt and grit is easy, and this is how to do it.

Step 1: Prepare A Water Bowl

Remove them from the fridge when you are ready to cook your clams. It’s essential to keep the clams as cold as possible to prevent them from dying and rotting before you cook them. Also, don’t soak your clams ahead of time, as this can cause the clams to die. Therefore, only prepare them for soaking right before cooking them.

Fill a bowl with fresh tap water and add a few tablespoons of salt. If you’re using 1 gallon of water, add 1/3 cup of salt. This bowl should be big enough to submerge the clams entirely, and there should be enough water in the bowl to cover all the clams.

Step 2: Soak The Clams

Place the clams in the water bowl and let them soak for about 20 minutes. As the clams breathe, they filter salt and grit out. Therefore, soaking the clams can remove the grit and prevent them from being overly salty.

Step 3: Remove The Clams From The Water

Don’t turn the water bowl over to pour the water, and the clams out. Doing so will cause the sand to fall on the shells again, making the soaking process futile. Instead, use a slotted spoon to scoop the clams out of the bowl.

If the clams expelled a lot of sand and grit, you might want to soak them for a second time. Depending on where the clams were harvested, it’s possible they collected more sand. However, if they haven’t expelled too much sand, you can move on to the next step after one soak.

Step 4: Scrub The Clam Shells 

Finally, before cooking the clams, give the shells a gentle scrub to remove any sand, barnacles, or debris from the shells. After doing so, your clams are prepped and ready to cook. You can now cook your clams however you wish.

The shells are done when their shells are open. Discard any clams that did not open when cooked, and enjoy!

Do You Add Cornmeal To The Water?

Some recipes suggest adding cornmeal to the water when soaking the clams. This is said to help speed up the purging process. Because the clams will feed on the cornmeal, they expel more sand. In addition, the cornmeal is said to make the clams plumper and sweeter.

However, other chefs suggest this is an unnecessary step. Therefore, we recommend trying both methods. Soak half the clams in regular salt water and the other half in salt water with added corn meal, and see which ones you prefer.

Adding corn meal cannot harm the clams or alter the flavor of the cooked clam negatively. So, there isn’t any harm in trying this method.

Should You Add Salt To The Dish?

If you’re worried that the clams might taste too salty, you might consider leaving the salt out of the recipe. However, this will result in a bland dish. Therefore, don’t omit the salt from the dish. If you’re concerned that the clams might taste too salty, reduce the salt amount in the soaking water instead. When thoroughly soaked, the clams shouldn’t taste too salty.

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Fresh clams have a slightly salty, fishy taste and are prepared in various ways to make a delicious seafood dish. To purge the clams of salt and grit, soak them in salt water for 20 minutes before cooking them. Also, ensure you buy live, fresh clams rather than clams soaked in brine.

If you purge your clams properly, they shouldn’t be overly salty. To make your clams sweeter, you can add corn meal to the soaking water. However, don’t omit the salt from your dish if you fear the clams being too salt, as this will cause your dish to taste bland.