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What Are Steamers Seafood? Seafood Lover's Guide for 2023

By: Shivani Choudhary
Updated On: September 23, 2023

Being a seafood enthusiast, I often find myself exploring new types of marine delights, and one in particular that has always caught my curiosity is the traditional New England cuisine known as 'Steamers'. "What are Steamers Seafood?" you may ask. Well, let's dive into the ocean of flavors and bring this unique delicacy to light.

Unlike the conventional seafood menus that list a variety of fishes, squids, lobsters, or crabs, the term 'Steamers' may not ring a bell immediately for many. However, for those who savor the rich, briny flavors that the ocean has to offer, steamers are indeed a treasured find. So, if you're ready for an epicurean adventure, reading on will help you decode the mystery of this beloved seafood recipe.

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What Are Steamers Seafood?

Unveiling the Mystery: What Are Steamers Seafood?

Steamers seafood primarily refers to a popular soft-shell clam, especially relished in New England dishes. Let's dive deeper into understanding this marine favorite.

Spotlight on Steamers Seafood

These specific clams, identifiable by their pronounced 'necks' or siphons protruding from their shells, earn the "steamers" moniker from the favored cooking technique—steaming. Their subtly sweet and gentle taste is a seafood enthusiast's delight.

Why Steamers Seafood Captures Hearts

Their allure isn't just in the taste. Particularly in coastal New England communities, steamers' seafood often stars in clambakes. Whether soaked in drawn butter or accompanied by a broth, they're a go-to choice for appetizers and main courses during family events and seafood celebrations. The soft, delectable meat of steamers ensures they're a sought-after summer delicacy.

Next time you're navigating a seafood menu, remember to check for 'steamers seafood'. You might just stumble upon a marine treat you can't resist!

Unmasking Steamers: Clams or Mussels?

Certainly, identifying a steamer isn't as simple as recognizing shrimp at a seafood market. Steamers, the term frequently used, especially along the eastern seaboard of America, are actually a specific sort of clams and look significantly different from mussels.

Characteristics and Habitat

Belonging to the Mya Arenaria species, these are soft-shell clams found predominantly in the salty marshes of North America. A compelling feature of these clams is their "neck" or siphon, a long, rubbery protrusion that helps them filter food from the water.

How Do Steamers Differ from Mussels? [Battle of the Bivalves]

How Do Steamers Differ from Mussels? [Battle of the Bivalves]

Having cleared the air on steamers being clams and not mussels, now, the intriguing part is how they differ from mussels.

Physique and Taste

Steamers, with their distinctive elongated necks, are softer and smaller than mussels. If we talk about taste, steamers have a sweet flavor profile with a delicate texture, while mussels often lean towards being slightly chewy and offer a robust, meaty taste.


In terms of availability, steamers aren't all-season seafood. They are best enjoyed during the colder months, on the contrary, mussels can be harvested all year round.

Thus, each one has its uniqueness and the choice between steamers and mussels will mostly rely on individual preferences.

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Can You Substitute Steamers and Mussels?

At first glance, one might wonder if steamers and mussels can be interchanged due to their similar shapes. However, here's the interesting bit, every seafood fan should note that while they can often be used interchangeably in recipes, there are nuanced differences in flavor and texture that distinguish them.

Flavor and Texture

Steamers have a delicate, sweet flavor and a softer texture compared to mussels. Mussels, on the other hand, are known for their succulent and robust flavor.

In Recipes

Although steamers and mussels might share similarities, it isn't always a seamless transition when substituting one for the other in recipes. The unique taste of each might alter the end result of your dish. So, it's always good to have a recipe that specifically calls for either steamers or mussels to get the best results.

Mastering the Art of Preparing Steamers

Mastering the Art of Preparing Steamers

Just as a painter needs to prime a canvas before layering on the vivid colors, the preparation of steamers too necessitates special attention to ensure an enjoyable culinary experience.

Cleaning and Preparing

Cleaning the steamers properly is vital to prevent the sandy grit from ruining your dish. The traditional method involves soaking the clams in salt water with a bit of cornmeal to help them eject any sand.


Post-cleaning, these delectable morsels can be cooked in a covered deep cooking pan with a bit of garlic, onion, and a cupful of your favorite white wine. Steaming them until the shells open naturally is key.

How to Eat Steamers? [Decoding the Etiquette]

Eating steamers is an experience in itself and I believe, it's this part that makes the entire meal a gastronomical adventure.

The Traditional Way

Traditionally, once the steamers are cooked, they are served in the broth that they were cooked in. You are supposed to remove the clam from its shell, gripping it onto the neck, then dip it into the butter to enjoy. The broth can be used to cleanse any residual sand.

Enjoying the Meal

It might feel a bit messy at first, but believe me, the delightful flavors of well-cooked steamers dipped in rich, buttery broth are worth every bit of the effort! Remember, the experience of eating seafood isn’t just about the taste, but also about the process, and steamers provide a hands-on, immersive dining adventure.

So next time you're faced with a bowl of steamers, don’t shy away. Dive in, get a little messy, and enjoy everything these delicious bivalves have to offer!

Delving into Diversity: Variations in Clam Servings

When it comes to seafood, the diversity in the ways it can be served is truly astounding. Clams, in particular, offer a wide array of culinary representations worldwide. But, let's demystify a few popular ways of serving clams that will sure to make your mouth water.

Clam Chowder

Originating from the North Eastern United States, clam chowder is a rich soup that traditionally mixes clams, potatoes, onions, and bacon. Its creamy broth is true comfort food, especially on a cold, rainy day.

Italian Style Pasta and Clams

Vongole, a traditional Italian dish involving pasta, combines clams, garlic, peppers, and white wine to a delightful al dente spaghetti. The light and flavorsome pasta highlight the sweet, briny flavor of the clams perfectly.

Japanese Miso Soup with Clams

In Japan, miso soup often contains clams. The salty, umami-rich miso enhances the flavor of the clams, making for a delicately delicious dish.

Selecting and Purchasing Steamers

Selecting and Purchasing Steamers

Before savoring the delights of steamers, one must know how to select and purchase them. Here's a detailed guide to help you make the best purchase.

Freshness is the Key

Consider the freshness of the clams before purchasing them. Check if the shells are firmly shut. Any wide-open clam might be dead, and consuming such clams can be harmful.

Size does Matter

Smaller clams are usually more tender and sweeter. Hence, choose clams that are small and don't show any signs of damage on the shells.

Smell the Sea

Clams should smell like the sea. If they smell fishy, it means they are no longer fresh and should not be purchased.

Tasting Notes of Steamers: Excursion into Flavors

Tasting steamers can be a unique experience. They carry with them not just the taste of the sea, but also the memory of the water where they were harvested.

Distinctly Briny yet Sweet

Steamed clams or steamers offer a flavor that is mildly sweet yet distinctly briny. The meat is tender and chewy, and when cooked properly, you get a hint of sweetness.

Taste of Terroir

Like wine, steamers have a terroir, a taste that's fundamentally linked to the place where they are grown. The saline character of steamers matches perfectly with the tang of lemon, the spice of garlic, or the butter’s creamy richness.

Matching with Beverages

When it comes to beverages, a crisp white wine, like a Sauvignon Blanc, is a popular pairing with steamers. The wine's vibrant acidity cuts through the sweet, briny taste of the clams, making for a harmonious match.

Wisdom from the Kitchen: Preservation and Storage of Steamers

Wisdom from the Kitchen: Preservation and Storage of Steamers

Have you finally given in to your soft spot for steamers but are stuck on how to store them properly for another culinary adventure? Fret not, as I guide you through the essential steps in maintaining the freshness of this delicacy while preserving its delectable taste.

Purchasing and Preservation

Firstly, it is always recommended to purchase fresh and alive steamers for the best experience. When at the seafood market or grocery store, make sure the clams are closed or close quickly when tapped; it's a sign that they're alive. An easy trick to keep your steamers fresh is to refrigerate them in an open container and covered them with a damp cloth. Remember, storing them in a closed container or a plastic bag can suffocate and kill them, which you certainly don't want. Lastly, it is best to consume fresh steamers as soon as possible, preferably within two days of purchase.

Freezing for Long-term Storage

For long-term storage, freezing is a viable option. Here's how: Cook the steamers as you normally would, allow them cool, and then remove them from their shells. Make sure to save any broth that results from the cooking process. Place the clams and broth in a freezer-safe container, leaving about half an inch of space to allow for expansion. They would ideally last up to three months frozen.

Nutritional Benefits of Steamers

If like me, you're a firm believer in the mantra, 'You are what you eat,' it's essential to learn about the nutritional composition of what we consume. So, let's talk about why you should be tempted to have a second helping of steamers now and again.

Essential Nutrients

First and foremost, steamers are a good source of lean protein. Getting adequate protein in your diet is essential for muscle building and the healthy functioning of your body. It's also worth noting that steamers are rich in iron, a mineral vital for the body's production of red blood cells. The lack of this can lead to a condition known as iron deficiency anemia.

But there's more - steamers also have a significant amount of vitamin B12, an essential nutrient that helps maintain the body's nerve and blood cells and aids in the creation of DNA. Even better, they provide a decent dose of omega-3 fatty acids, well-known for their heart health benefits.

Dietary Considerations

When considering incorporating steamers into your routine diet, make sure to take into account their sodium and cholesterol content. While not exceedingly high, these levels might be a factor for those with certain dietary restrictions or health concerns. Like any other food, they are best enjoyed in moderation.

Adding steamers to your culinary repertoire not only elevates the taste of your meals but can contribute to a balanced and nutritious diet. So, why not don a chef's hat and set sail on the flavorful journey of steamer cooking?

Serving Steamers at Social Gatherings

When it comes to social gatherings, finding a dish that impresses everyone can be a challenge. But I’ve found a solution that never fails to win hearts - introducing steamers to your party menu. Not just because they're utterly delicious, but also due to their engaging, hands-on nature which brings a fun and interactive twist to any meal.

The Ideal Appetizer: Steamers

Steamers, with their petite size and gentle, oceanic flavor, make for an ideal appetizer. They're light on the stomach, building up anticipation for the main course, yet flavorful enough to get your taste buds tingling. You can serve them in individual bowls or arrange a grand platter, offering lemon wedges, melted butter, and broths on the side.

Fun and Interactive: The Shell Game

One of the highlights of serving steamers at parties is the element of interaction it brings. Many people enjoy the process of opening the shells and dipping the clam in broth and butter before savoring it. Encourage your guests to play this "shell game", which not only makes dining more enjoyable but also ignites conversations around the table.

Pairing Steamers: Drinks and More

Your choice of drinks can elevate the taste of steamers. Traditionally, a chilled glass of white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio pairs beautifully with steamers. For those who prefer beer, a light lager or a spicy saison can be a good match. Make sure to have a few choices that suit all your guest's expectations.

So next time you throw a party, bring out the steamers and watch as your guest's faces light up with delight. Trust me, they’ll be speaking about your culinary skills for weeks to come.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly are steamers in the context of seafood?

Steamers are a type of edible soft-shell clams, harvested from the sandy bottom of bays and inlets. They get their name from the most common method of preparation - steaming.

Are steamers the same as mussels?

No, they are not. Although both are bivalves and part of the mollusk family, steamers and mussels differ in species. They have distinct taste profiles and different cooking requirements.

What's the main difference in taste between steamers and mussels?

Steamers have a sweet, delicate flavor and a soft texture. In contrast, mussels tend to have a stronger, more robust taste and a firmer texture.

Can you use mussels instead of steamers in a recipe?

It depends on the recipe. While both steamers and mussels can be cooked in similar ways, their unique taste profiles could alter the outcome of your dish.

How do you usually prepare steamers for cooking?

Steamers are usually prepared by soaking and scrubbing them to remove any sand or grit. They are then cooked in a pot of boiling water or broth until they open.

Is there a specific way to eat steamers?

Yes, traditionally, steamers are removed from their shells, rinsed in a broth to remove any leftover sand, and then dipped in melted butter before eating.

Are steamers healthy to eat?

Indeed, steamers are low in fat and high in protein. They also provide an excellent source of vitamins like B12 and minerals such as zinc and iron, making them a healthy seafood choice.


Navigating the world of seafood can sometimes feel like setting sail on uncharted waters, especially with peculiar names like 'Steamers'. But once we throw the nautical map on the table and begin to understand what each item is, the journey becomes a lot more delicious. From distinguishing it from other similar seafood like mussels to enjoying it in its simplest form, understanding steamers has hopefully brought us a step closer to appreciating the sumptuous diversity of seafood.

So the next time you find yourself in a coastal restaurant, don't rush to order the standard shrimp or crab. Be a little adventurous, order the mysterious 'Steamers'. Not only will you get a taste of the sea, but you'll also be partaking in a delicious segment of culinary tradition. So here's to blowing off some steam with a plate of steamers on your table! Bon appetit!

Food Lover and Storyteller 🍽️✨ With a fork in one hand and a pen in the other, Shivani brings her culinary adventures to life through evocative words and tantalizing tastes. Her love for food knows no bounds, and she's on a mission to share the magic of flavors with fellow enthusiasts.
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