Gone Outdoors

How to Catch and Cook Clams on the Beach

by Christina Sloane

Clams are available year round on west and east coast beaches, particularly on Pacific Northwest and New England shores. Warm weather is best for catching clams, however, since the activity requires wading in shallow ocean waters. A delicious, simple meal of steamed clams is especially fresh and rewarding when cooked on the beach directly after a catch.

Hunt for clams in shallow ocean waters or along the shore. Look for broken clam shell pieces on the beach to indicate that clams are nearby.

Wade in the water in your bare feet. When you feel a round clam shell, dig it up with a hand rake or by hand. Drag a clamming rake along the ocean floor to collect larger amounts of clams faster. Another method is look for air holes in the mud along the shoreline to detect the presence of clams.

Inspect the clams before placing them in your bucket. Clams should feel heavy in your hand, have tightly closed shells with no cracks and should smell briny, like the sea, but not fishy. Discard any clams that do not meet these criteria.

Rinse all of the clams with fresh water to remove sand and debris.

Start a small, controlled fire on the beach. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over the flame.

Add the garlic to the pan. Cook the garlic until it becomes soft. Chop the garlic ahead of time, at home. This will make sure you do not have to deal with kitchen utensils on a sandy beach.

Add a single layer of clams to the sauté pan, followed by 1/4 cup fresh water and the white wine. Cover the clams and allow them to steam until the shells open. Check on the clams every few minutes to see if the shells have opened.

Serve the clams in a bowl with the cooking liquid, parsley and a piece of bread on the side.

Items you will need
  • Hand rake
  • Clamming rake or net
  • Bucket
  • Water bottle
  • Canned heat
  • Large sauté pan with cover
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. parsley
  • Bread


  • Some states require a license or permits to dig for clams or build fires on public beaches. Check your state's regulations.

Photo Credits

  • Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images