Culinary Arts

How to Buy Clams and Mussels With Chef Thomas Keller’s Tips

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Oct 25, 2019 • 2 min read

Clams and mussels are popular, edible mollusks that are both flavorful and inexpensive. Since they’re also perishable, you want to get the freshest possible.

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What Are the Different Types of Clams?

  • Atlantic hard-shell clams (aka quahogs) can be sold as chowder clams (large and tough), cherrystones (medium), and littlenecks (small, tender, and sweet).
  • Manilla clams are a type of hard-shell clam found in the Pacific ocean and can be eaten raw.
  • Soft-shell clams (aka steamers) have thin shells with siphons (necks) that stick out. They are highly perishable and often a little sandy. They include razor clams and geoducks.

What Are the Different Types of Mussels?

  • Farm-raised mussels grow on a rope that hangs down into the water. Since they don’t touch the seafloor, they contain less grit than wild mussels. Most edible mussels are farm-raised.
  • Wild mussels live at the bottoms of oceans or bays or on rocks and often contain some grit.
  • Green mussels are found in Asia and New Zealand.
  • Freshwater mussels look similar to sea mussels, but they’re not typically eaten.

Chef Thomas Keller’s Top 3 Tips for Purchasing Clams and Mussels

After purchasing your mussels and clams, make sure to properly clean and store them to keep them fresh.

  1. It is best to purchase clams and mussels close to their source. The less they’ve had to travel, the more likely they are to be fresh.
  2. Their shells should be closed. Discard clams and mussels with cracked shells or shells that do not close when tapped, which may not contain a living creature. (Yes—you want your mussels and clams to be alive when you cook them.)
  3. Store them on top of ice in a perforated container set over a deeper container to allow the melting ice to drain into and to avoid the shellfish being immersed in water.
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How Many Clams or Mussels Per Person?

For appetizer courses, consider purchasing ½ pound of mussels or clams per person. If the shellfish serves as the main course, however, 1 to 1 ½ pounds per person should be sufficient. Consider our recipe for steamed mussels in garlicky broth for a simple supper or as part of a showstopping meal.

Want to Become a Better Chef?

Whether you’re just learning the difference between braising and broiling, or you already know how to sear a duck breast to perfection, mastering cooking techniques takes patience and practice. No one knows this better than Chef Thomas Keller, who has won more Michelin stars than any chef in America. In Chef Keller’s third Masterclass, the founder of The French Laundry and Per Se teaches you the underlying techniques of making great food so you can go beyond the cookbook. Learn how to prepare seafood, perfect sous vide cooking, make classic desserts, and bring Michelin star-quality meals to your kitchen.

Want to learn more about the culinary arts? The MasterClass All-Access Pass provides exclusive video lessons from master chefs including Chef Thomas Keller, Dominique Ansel, Massimo Bottura, Gordon Ramsay, Alice Waters, and more.

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