lobster clam boil

How to Run a Clam Boil

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Somewhat less labor intensive than a clam bake is a clam boil where everything is steamed in a large stock pot. The flavor is almost, but not quite, the same. (Optional items for the clam bake/clam boil include mussels, hard-shell clams, jumbo-size shrimp, sweet onions, Red Bliss potatoes and cherry peppers.) Although you could boil all of the ingredients a better method is to steam everything.

lobster clam boil

Plated lobster, fresh from the clam boil.

To do a clam boil you’ll need a large (21- to 30-gallon) stock pot, a steamer basket and a high pressure propane cooker (such as a turkey fryer).
If you don’t have access to sea water, replicate the 3.5% salinity by adding four ounces of kosher salt (about 1/3 cup) to one gallon of filtered or bottled water. Don’t worry about not having the other minerals naturally occurring in sea water.

What you’ll need for a clam boil (serves four):

4 (1 1/2-pound) hard-shell lobsters
8 pounds steamer (soft-shell) clams, divided into two-pound servings and placed in cheesecloth bags
4 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked and cut in half
4 medium Red Bliss potatoes, halved
4 medium sweet onions (Vidalia, Walla-Walla, or Maui), peeled and halved
4 (6-inch) links sausage, bias sliced into 2- to 2 1/2-inch pieces
Sea water
Rockweed (two five-gallon buckets should do)
1 pound drawn butter (for the lobster and clams), recipe follows
Grilled lemon halves, for serving, recipe follows
Chopped parsley (for garnish)

If you don’t have sea water, combine the water and salt in the stock pot. Stir to dissolve the salt and bring to a rolling boil. (You could also add a couple of tablespoons of Old Bay Seafood Seasoning or crab boil seasoning if you’re so inclined.) Place the steamer basket in the stock pot. Add a few handfuls of Rockweed. Reduce the heat keeping the liquid at a low boil. Cover until the water begins to steam. Add the potatoes. After about five minutes, add the corn. Cover and steam for five minutes.

Carefully remove the bands from the lobster claws (you could kill the lobsters before steaming by putting a large, sharp chef’s knife between the eyes extending a couple of inches into the carapace and splitting the head but leaving the tail intact); add the lobsters to the pot along with the sausage and onions. Add another layer of Rockweed. Cover and cook for about five minutes. Add the steamers (soft-shell clams) and another layer of Rockweed. Cook until the clams open, about five to eight minutes. Discard any shellfish that don’t open. (The lobster should have an internal temperature of 135 degrees F. when done. Just because the shell turns red doesn’t mean the lobster is fully cooked.)

Drain the steamer basket and pour out onto a newspaper-covered picnic table similar to a crawfish or low-country boil (or get fancy and plate everything on several large platters). Serve with grilled lemon halves, strained cooking liquid (for rinsing the clams), drawn butter and a lot of cold beer.

This could also be prepared in a kettle-style grill by starting a fire with hardwood charcoal and adding the rocks. Let the rocks get hot and the coals ash covered… about an hour. Rake the coals to remove the ash. Add the seaweed and layer the potatoes and onions atop the rocks. Add more seaweed and the lobsters, sausage and shellfish. Add more seaweed. Cover and cook for about 45 minutes or until the shellfish have opened, the lobsters are bright red and the potatoes are knife tender.
Find out more on clambakes, boils, and lobster in this excellent article by our own Mike Stines.

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Grilling & BBQ Editor | Mike holds a “Doctorate of Barbeque Philosophy” (Ph.B.) degree from the Kansas City Barbeque Society. His book Mastering Barbecue has been called the “go-to” book for BBQ knowledge.

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