How to Have a Proper Clambake

Have It on the Beach or Anywhere You Can Start a Fire


Clambake/Flickr/CC 2.0

There's one thing that goes with summer as much as grilling burgers, and that’s a clambake. The tradition of the clambake goes back to the Native Americans who invented the art of steaming clams, corn, potatoes and other things in a hole in the ground. This ancient form of cooking has grown in popularity and is an event for celebration all over the world.

Traditional Way to Have a Clambake

The traditional method for throwing a clambake is to start by digging a hole in the ground. Cover the bottom of the hole with large stones and build a large, hot fire on top of the stones. This fire needs to burn for a couple of hours to heat those stones as hot as they can get. In the meantime, you can prepare the food. A clambake consists of a lot of food, most importantly fresh clams. Typically the menu will include:

  • 3 to 4 pounds round clams
  • 6 to 10 large baking potatoes
  • 6 medium onions, peeled
  • 6 to 10 ears of corn (husk left on but silk removed)
  • 12 live lobsters
  • 12 lemons cut into wedges
  • Lots of melted butter

You will also need enough seaweed or rockweed to cover the fire pit and plenty of cheesecloth. Wire baskets are also helpful to hold everything together, but not necessary. Wrap individual servings of the above ingredients in cheesecloth, tying the corners together and place in baskets if you have them.

Once the rocks are hot enough to spit a drop of water back at you, rake off the coals from the fire and cover the rocks with seaweed. Place the food packets on the on the seaweed and cover with more seaweed. It's then best to cover the whole project with a large tarpaulin. After about 2 hours everything should be done. Serve with melted butter, salt and pepper and ketchup.

That's how you hold a traditional clambake. Of course, there are regional differences, but then you get a general idea. Of course, most people don't live on a beach and don't necessarily want to dig a hole in the backyard. So how would you do this on, say, a charcoal grill?

Having a Clambake on a Charcoal Grill

First of all cut way down on the seaweed. You will only need a small amount soaking in water. Second wrap the food packages in cheesecloth, then add a little seaweed and wrap tightly in aluminum foil. Place the packages on a hot grill and close the lid. In an hour, you can eat.

Of course, you can add most anything to your clambake you want. The secret is that the seaweed steams the food, so it's important that you have something sitting with the food to provide moisture. If you don't have access to seaweed you can add about 1/4 cup of water to the food packages as long as they are sealed completely. If there isn't enough moisture then the food won't cook properly.