Atlantic Surf Clams

Species Information

Clams are bivalve mollusks with two shells (valves). The Atlantic surf clam is one of the largest species of clam inhabiting the Atlantic coast. Atlantic surf clams live buried in coarse or fine sand. They live offshore as well as in the low intertidal and surf zones.

These clams use their siphons to pull in and then filter fine particles of organic matter and plankton from the surrounding seawater, in other words, like almost all clams, they are filter feeders. The foot of the clam is used for movement and to burrow into the bottom. They burrow just below the surface of the mud and are often exposed at low tide.

The surf clam, served as fried clams at inexpensive restaurants, is dredged in large quantities off the East Coast. They are too big and tough to eat whole and are only sold processed.

Cooking & Handling

Cover clams with a damp towel to keep moist, and store in a cool, dark area of the refrigerator. Do not store on ice, as it will be too cold it will shorten shelf life. Under ideal conditions, clams will stay alive for up to two weeks, although shelf life is much shorter in the summer.

Atlantic surf clams are generally not available for purchase as whole clams, but instead sold in soups and chowders, as chopped or minced clam meat or breaded clam strips.

Surf clams provide a low-fat, high-quality protein and are an excellent source of selenium and niacin.

Try clam dishes with flavors such as bacon, cream, garlic, ginger, hot red pepper flakes, lemon, mushroom, olive oil, onion, pancetta, potato, rice wine, shallot, soy sauce, thyme, tomato and white win.

Cooking Methods

Bake, Fry, Poach

Global Supply

United States

Seasonal Availability

Surf clams are at peak season in spring and summer. They are available year-round.

Did You Know?

Surf clams are heavy shells that are round, triangular shaped. The shell surface is smooth with fine concentric lines. New lines are added as the clam grows; the lines can be used to determine the age of the clam.

Surf clams make up about 70 percent of all clams commercially harvested in the United States.

Only the adductor muscle of this clam is edible. They are used primarily in the production of canned clams and clam chowder and as fish bait.

Surf clams are harvested in offshore waters up to 100 feet deep.

Scientific Name

Spisula solidissima

Market Name

clam, surf clam

Common Names

surf clam, skimmer clam, hen clam, sea clam, giant clam, bar clam

Substitutions

hardshell clam, softshell clam

Raw Characteristics

  • shell is yellowish white to dark grey, with a brownish black covering
  • whitish-orange meat
  • market weight 4 to 8 inches across

Cooked Characteristics

  • chewy white meat
  • mild and sweet tasting
  • meat color is ivory to golden yellow with some dark areas
  • medium to firm texture

Pronunciations

French: mactre solide
German: risen-trogmuschel
Italian: spisula
Japanese: nimaigai
Spanish: almeja blanca