How to Tell if Clams Are Bad to Eat

Written by angela lafollette Google
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How to Tell if Clams Are Bad to Eat
Fresh clams transport the briny flavour of the sea to your dinner table. (Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Once you bring home live clams, you need to store them in the refrigerator because clams do not live long and spoil quickly. Refrigerating clams retards bacterial growth and keeps the shellfish alive, imperative for safe consumption. Inspect live clams in the shell carefully before you eat them to avoid the risk of a serious food-borne illness. Eat fresh clams within two to three days for best flavour.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Inspect the exterior of the clams. Discard clams with broken or cracked shells because they may harbour bacteria.

  2. 2

    Check each shell to make sure it is tightly closed. Clam shells that are open or slightly ajar indicate that the clam may have died. Tap on open clam shells to see if they close. Discard clams that remain open.

  3. 3

    Smell the clams. Fresh clams have a saltwater smell. Spoiled clams smell fishy or like ammonia.

  4. 4

    Prepare the clams using your desired cooking method. Discard clams if the shells do not open during cooking. Shells that remain closed likely contain clams that died prior to cooking.

Tips and warnings

  • Remove fresh clams from packaging so that they can breathe. Store clams in the refrigerator in an open container. Soak paper towels in water to dampen them and then cover the top of the container with them to help provide moisture for the clams.
  • Avoid storing clams directly on ice because extreme cold can kill the shellfish.
  • Never store clams in a closed container or bag or submerged in water because they cannot breathe and will die.

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