How to Steam Cockles

Written by fred decker
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How to Steam Cockles
Cockles have distinctively rounded, ridged shells. (Zedcor Wholly Owned/ Images)

Cockles are a common variety of edible clams, with attractively ridges shells that are distinctively rounded in shape, compared to most other clams. Like most clams, they are tender if cooked lightly and quickly, but can become tough when overcooked. Steaming is a popular method for cooking cockles, requiring only a few minutes and minimal preparation.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Cockles
  • Colander
  • Steamer, or a pot with a tight-fitting lid
  • Salt
  • Seaweed (optional)
  • Skillet, with a tight-fitting lid
  • Wine, beer or cider
  • Herbs, spices or other flavouring ingredients

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    Basic Steaming

  1. 1

    Place the cockles in a colander and rinse under cold water, to remove any sand clinging to their shells. Discard any that are crushed or broken, or do not close when tapped with a finger.

  2. 2

    Run an inch of water into the bottom of a pot, and salt it well. Add a small handful of kelp or other seaweed to the bottom of the pot, if desired, to provide an "oceany" flavour.

  3. 3

    Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and bring it to a full boil. Remove the lid carefully, to avoid being scalded by the steam, and add the cockles. The cockles should be no more than two or three layers deep, to cook properly. If necessary, steam in multiple small batches.

  4. 4

    Cover the pot again with the lid and steam, covered, until all the cockles have opened. This will take about five minutes, depending on their size and how many are in the pot. Shake the pot occasionally during steaming, to stir the cockles around and ensure even cooking.

  5. 5

    Remove them from the pot when the cockles have opened. Discard any that have not opened, and serve the rest immediately with your choice of condiments. Alternately, pickle the cockles or use them as an ingredient in your favourite recipe.

    Pan Steaming with Beer, Wine or Cider

  1. 1

    Rinse and check the cockles as described previously, discarding any that fail to close or show visible damage.

  2. 2

    Pour enough wine, beer or cider into a skillet to cover the bottom, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. Add herbs, spices or any other flavouring ingredients specified in your recipe. Onions, celery and coarsely crushed peppercorns are a basic combination that works well.

  3. 3

    Bring the skillet to a boil over moderately high heat. Add one or two portions of cockles, and cover tightly with the lid.

  4. 4

    Steam for approximately five minutes, shaking the skillet occasionally. The cockles are done when they have all or almost all opened.

  5. 5

    Remove the cockles from the skillet, and discard any that have not opened. The steaming liquid can be turned into a sauce, in many cases, by reducing it until thick and then straining it. Serve over the warm cockles.

Tips and warnings

  • Cockles are especially popular in the U.K., where they are commonly sold as a snack. British websites are a rich source of recipes for cockles.
  • Like other shellfish, cockles are very perishable and can cause serious illness if not handled correctly. Buy only from reputable sources. Discard any uncooked cockles that do not close, and any cooked cockles that do not open.

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