You Should Always Soak Clams Before Eating Them. Here's Why

Cooking clams can seem intimidating at first, especially since they're known for being a little tricky to clean. Without doing some prep work beforehand to get them really clean, you could end up biting into a sandy clam that's filled with grit, and nothing ruins a bowl of buttery, garlicky steamed clams faster than that. Luckily, you don't necessarily have to spend hours scrubbing and cleaning to get the grit out of your clams – you just need to give them some time to soak.

According to The Kitchn, you might not need to worry about sand in your clams at all if you buy farm-raised clams, but fresh, wild clams will definitely need some cleaning since they've been filtering sand on the ocean floor. Before you start cleaning them, get rid of any clams that have chipped or cracked shells. Then, put the clams in a bowl filled with cool water and let them soak for at least 20 minutes, up to an hour, to draw out the sand. Once they've soaked for a while, take each clam out of the water and individually scrub it to get rid of any grit that's left behind.

After they've soaked, don't drain your clams in a strainer. According to Allrecipes, if you pour the clams into a colander, you'll just pour the dirty water back over them, and they could end up sandy again.

Do you need to soak clams in water with cornmeal?

You might've heard that adding cornmeal to the water while the clams are soaking can help them get rid of all of the grit they've absorbed. Opinions about whether adding cornmeal actually helps are a little divided, however. According to Food52, clams will release grit on their own if you soak them in water, but it can be an intense process if you want your wild clams to be completely sand-free; apparently, you'll need to mix a gallon of water with 1/3 cup salt to clean 12 clams, and you'll need to regularly change out the water over 48 hours.

The trick for adding cornmeal might speed up the process a little. According to Food52, adding two tablespoons of cornmeal will mainly affect the flavor and texture of the clams. In a test, the site found that between two batches of clams – one soaked in salty water, and the other soaked in salty water with cornmeal added – the clams from the cornmeal soak had less sand left inside and tasted a little sweeter. However, since cornmeal can affect the flavor, whether you add it or not when you're soaking clams depends on your own tastes. Whichever way you try it, just make sure to give your clams a good soak before cooking!