Hardshell Clam

Species Information

Also called the quahog, the hardshell clam is usually about 4 inches wide with a thick shell that is grayish white on the outside and white on the inside with a purple patch near the rear. Its shells originally had a sacred significance to the Indians; later the shells were used for wampum (money).

The hard clam lives in sandy-bottomed bays and coves, and along beaches from Canada to Texas; however, they are found only sporadically north of Cape Cod.

The smallest clams are called "little necks", next are the "cherrystones", and the largest called a "chowder". In some markets, you may find "top necks" which fall between little necks and cherrystones. You may also find markets where top necks fall between cherrystones and chowders.

The hardshell clam burrows shallowly in sediments of either mud or sand. It is among the most commercially important species of invertebrate. Like other clams, it is a filter feeder. They have a large, heavy shell that ranges from being a pale brownish color to shades of gray and white. The exterior of the shell is covered with a series of growth rings. The interior of the shell is colored a deep purple around the posterior edge and hinge.

Cooking & Handling

Cover clams with a damp towel to keep moist and store in a cook, dark area of the refrigerator. Do not store on ice.

A live hardshell clam will have a tightly closed shell or will close if tapped.

Hardshell clams are very low in Saturated Fat. It is also a good source of Riboflavin, Niacin, Potassium and Zinc, and a very good source of Protein, Vitamin C, Vitamin B12, Iron, Phosphorus, Copper, Manganese and Selenium.

Flavors that work well with hardshell clams are bacon, cream, ginger, red pepper flakes, lemon, mushroom, olive oil, onion, pancetta, potato, rice wine, shallot, soy sauce, thyme, tomato and white wine.

Cooking Methods

Bake, Poach, Sauté, Steam

Global Supply

Canada, United States

Seasonal Availability

Fresh and frozen year-round. The peak season for hardshell clams is June to September. Frozen are available year-round.

Did You Know?

Hardshell clams are used to make clam juice.

Hardshell clams can live for more than 150 years.

Unlike softshells, hardshell clams can close their shells completely and live on their own juices for a time, giving them a longer shelf life out of the water.

Scientific Name

Mercenaria mercenaria

Market Name

Clam, hardshell, quahog

Common Names

Hardshell clam, quahog


Surf clams (chopped), softshell clams

Raw Characteristics

  • off-white, oval, symmetrical shell with purple or violet border inside
  • tender-crisp and plump
  • ivory to golden yellow meat with some dark areas
  • smells briny
  • market weight 7-10 per lb (littlenecks); 6-8 per lb (top necks); 3-5 per lb (cherrystone); 1-2 per lb (quahog)

Cooked Characteristics

  • mild, sweet flavor
  • pale, pinkish-white meat
  • delicate, firm texture


French: praire
German: venusmuschel
Italian: vongola dura
Japanese nimaigai
Spanish: verifueto