If you find yourself with more fresh live clams than you need for one meal, you will need to store them so you can eat them later.
When you don’t anticipate eating them in the next day or two, you should consider freezing them to keep them tasting fresh.
Generally speaking, you can freeze live clams in their shells. Sort through the clams to ensure that all the shells are closed, indicating that the clams are still alive.
Then, rinse and drain them. Finally, place them in a zip-top freezer bag and press out as much air as possible. Date the bag and pop it in the freezer. These frozen in the shell clams will be good to eat for up to 4 months.
Continue reading for details on getting the best results when storing, freezing, and defrosting clams.
Freezing Clams In The Shell
After you purchase live clams, you should use or freeze them within 3 days. Before freezing them, sort through the clams and take out any that have opened shells.
An open shell indicates that the clam has died and may be contaminated with bacteria that could cause food-borne illness.
Once you have sorted out the live clams in the shells you want to freeze, rinse them in cool water to remove any sand or other debris. Let all the excess water drain out of the shells.
Place all the clams in a freezer bag, press out all the excess air, and seal tightly. Be sure to note the date on the bag.
Clams frozen in the shell will keep well in the freezer for up to three months.
Defrosting Frozen Clams In The Shell
It is best to thaw clams in the shell by placing them in the refrigerator for approximately 6 hours before you are ready to use them.
Be sure to defrost only the amount of clams you intend to eat because you cannot refreeze them after they thaw.
For a quicker thawing method, you can place your bag of frozen clams in a bowl of cool water to thaw.
This will be a bit faster than the refrigerator but may still take some time to thaw completely.
After they thaw, you can proceed to cook them in whatever recipe you were planning to prepare.
Freezing Shucked Clams
If you prefer, you can freeze shucked clams instead of freezing them in the shell. Shuck the clams, then wash each piece of clam meat thoroughly in cold running water to ensure they are clean.
Drain any excess water, then place the clam meat in a heavy-duty zip-top freezer bag or an airtight container that is just a bit larger than the amount of meat you have.
Leave a bit of space in the container or the zip-top bag as the moisture in the clams will expand upon freezing.
You can also use a vacuum sealer to preserve the clam meat. Add some water to the vacuum seal bag along with the clam meat and seal before placing it in the freezer.
Be sure to date the containers before you place them in the freezer. Stored properly, frozen clam meat will keep in the freezer for up to 4 months.
Thawing Frozen Shucked Clams
Remove the frozen clams from the freezer and set them in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours. Alternatively, you can place them in a bowl of cool water to defrost them more quickly.
However, shucked clams don’t need to thaw if you are adding them to a larger dish. Simply toss them in frozen, and they will thaw and cook along with the dish straight out of the freezer.
Freezing Razor Clams
Razor clams have a long slender shell that looks like an old-fashioned straight razor. These clams freeze much better than other types of clams.
When you are ready to freeze them, you should remove the shells by running them under warm water, then clean the clams.
You can store the clam meat in an airtight container or zip-top bag. Add water or equal parts water and milk to cover the clams and pop them in the freezer.
The added liquid will maintain the texture of the clam meat and will make a nice clam broth as it thaws.
Frozen clam meat in regular containers will keep for about 6 months in the freezer.
Another option is to use a vacuum sealer to store the clam meat, milk, and water mixture.
Storing the clam meat in a vacuum sealer will keep it as fresh as the day you caught them for up to a year.
Freezing Steamer Clams
You can freeze steamer clams in the shells. Scrub the shells clean of any sand and debris and rinse them well with fresh water.
Mix a brine solution of ½ cup of brine to 1 gallon of water.
Soak the clams for several hours so that the clams expel any remaining debris. Drain the water and rinse the clams again in freshwater.
Then place the live, cleaned clams in zip-top freezer bags and squeeze out as much air as possible.
Date the bags before you place them in the freezer. These clams will keep in the freezer for 3-6 months.
Freezing Pre-Cooked Steamer Clams
Steam your clams in a steamer basket according to the manufacturer’s instructions for 1-5 minutes or until the shells open.
Shuck the clams by hand, peeling off the dark skin from the neck and removing the stomach.
Place the steamed clams into heavy-duty freezer bags and add some of the liquid from the bottom of the steamer.
Squeeze out any excess air and date the bag. These clams will keep in the freezer for up to 6 months with this method.
Freezing Cooked Clams
There is no safety issue with freezing cooked clams. However, freezing clams after they are cooked leads to clams that are either mushy or rubbery.
For the best results, freeze the clams before cooking them.
Storing Live Clams In The Refrigerator
Store live clams in the refrigerator in an open container with damp paper towels or a moist towel.
Set your refrigerator as close to 32 degrees Fahrenheit as possible to keep the clams fresh for 2-3 days.
Don’t add fresh water to the bin you are storing the clams in because freshwater will kill the clams.
Freezing Clam Juice
You can reserve the water you cooked the clams in to make clam broth (also called clam juice) to use in your recipes.
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and add your cleaned clams. As they pop open, remove them from the water and place them in a large bowl.
As you shuck each clam, catch any liquid that drains from the shells and from the clam itself.
Strain the broth from the pot and the bowl through a fine sieve lined with a cloth. Squeeze all the liquid from the cloth.
Dilute the broth you have made with 3-5 cups of water until it is flavorful but not salty.
Freeze the clam juice in ice cube trays so that you can easily add it in just the right amount to your recipes. Keep the frozen cubes in a zip-top freezer bag for up to 4 months.
Clam chowder is a traditional dish that you can make with the clams from your freezer.
Combine 1 cup minced onion, 1 cup chopped celery, 1 cup diced carrots, and 2 cups of cubed potatoes in a large skillet.
Add a cup of clam juice and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are tender.
In a large saucepan, melt ¾ cup of butter over medium heat. Whisk in ¾ cups of four until smooth.
Continue whisking and add 1 quart of half and a half until the sauce is thick and smooth. Stir in the vegetables and clam juice.
Before serving, add the clams so they only cook for a few minutes and don’t overcook.
Finally, stir in 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar and add 1 ½ teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste.
Freeze Leftover Clam Chowder
Let the chowder come to room temperature. Pour serving-size portions of chowder into zip-top freezer bags or freezer bowls.
Leave a small amount of room for the chowder to expand as it freezes. Use the chowder within 3 months.
You can freeze clams in the shell. Starting with fresh, live clams, rinse the shells thoroughly and place them in a heavy-duty freezer bag.
Press out as much air as you can and date the bags. Clams in the shell will stay good in the freezer for about 4 months.
The best way to freeze shucked clams is in a vacuum-sealed bag with equal parts milk and water. This will preserve the texture and flavor of the clam meat for up to 4 months.
If you have cooked the clams, it is best to eat them within three days rather than trying to freeze them.
Freezing cooked clams may result in tough, rubbery meat, although it will be safe to eat.
Cook your clams directly from the freezer or thaw them in the refrigerator. Either way, freezing your extra clams will allow you to have delicious, fresh-tasting seafood all year.
My name is Keren Tayler. I am a stay-at-home mama to three lovely girls, Sarah + Rachel + Hannah. Prior to becoming a mom, I had a successful career in the accounting field, steps away from becoming a CPA. I decided to give up on my career in order to raise my own kids (as opposed to letting a nanny do it, no judgment here :)) I learned a lot and I love sharing it with other moms. Along the way, I also became a Certified Food Handler.