How to Host a Clambake

How to Host the Best Clambake Ever

I love clambakes and had no idea how easy they are to do until I watched my brother-in-law cook one. A few years ago, we were visiting him and his family in Fire Island when he decided to do a clambake one night.

He made it look so simple and cooked it right on the stovetop!

It was incredible!!!

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I love quick, simple recipes that are major crowd pleasers.

And I’m a huge seafood fan.

I make this super simple baked shrimp scampi.

These coconut shrimp tacos.

This amazing shrimp boil recipe in foil packets with almost no clean-up.

And this INCREDIBLE Italian seafood stew that you really have to try.

Since I enjoy cooking and trying new recipes, I was really inspired to make a stovetop clambake for friends after we returned home from our trip.

I searched online and found a super easy recipe from Martha Stewart. Comparing it to others, her recipe sounded pretty simple, quick and delicious!

And come on…it’s from Martha!!!

How to Host the Best Clambake Ever

My First Clambake

That summer, I made her stovetop clambake recipe over Labor Day Weekend. It was a huge success! The ingredients were readily available, the preparation was straightforward and the recipe was easy to follow. I was surprised how simple this recipe was to make!

I’ve thrown a few clambakes since then using this same recipe and the result is nothing short of fabulous!

Seriously, Martha’s recipe hits the mark every time. If you are looking for a theme or fun dish to entertain guests, look no further than Martha Stewart’s Stovetop Clambake Recipe.

Since I don’t have great quality photos from the first clambake I hosted, here are a few pics from the second clambake. We rented a house in Long Beach Island, New Jersey with some family and celebrated with a stovetop clambake.

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How to Host the Best Clambake Ever
My sister-in-law Laura and I prepared the seafood and cooked the meal. My daughter loves to be a ham in the background.
How to Host the Best Clambake Ever
It looked so good we all had to take pics with it!
How to Host the Best Clambake Ever
I mean so yum right?

Tips For Hosting a Clambake

Since this recipe cooks on the stovetop, it can be made anytime of year as long as you have access to the ingredients. If something is not available, you can subtract it out. It wouldn’t be the same, but it’s not detrimental to the recipe.

Because I wanted the highest quality ingredients for the clambake, I pre-ordered the seafood from one of our local markets.

To cook the clambake, I used very large stockpots like this. If I am doubling the recipe, I use two stockpots of similar size to fit all the food.

How to Host the Best Clambake Ever
I prefer to get the shrimp cleaned, deveined with the tail on, but have seen it served in clambakes fully intact. To me, this is a personal choice.

How to Prepare Seafood for a Clambake

When you bring fresh seafood home, some of it will need to be cleaned before you cook it.

I followed tips for how to clean shellfish and debeard mussels from articles I found on the web.

Because it drives me crazy when clams or mussels have even the slightest amount of sand or grit, I go through the cleaning process twice and scrub the clams off with a bristle brush after the first cleaning.

It’s been a very effective process for me – but do what works for you.

How to Host the Best Clambake Ever
Fresh mussels ready for cooking!

How to Set a Table for a Clambake

Styling a table for a clambake can be as simple or as elaborate as you want. I’ve been to a few clambakes where the tabletop decor was as simple as newspaper on the table and then clambake was dumped right on top. Guests stood around the table, ate with their hands and discarded shells right on the table.

But I’ve also been to clambakes where the meal was served a little more neatly in bowls and trays.

Consider what will work for you and the amount of guests you will have.

The few times I hosted, I opted for aluminum trays to keep it a little neater and easier to clean up. I purchased 2x the amount of trays so that one could be used for the meal and the other could be used for the discarded shells. It worked very well.

Although I love to create festive and elaborate tablescapes, I kept mine pretty simple for the first few clambakes I hosted. Having little experience with cooking some of the seafood, I was not feeling confident about the dish.

Thus, I wanted to focus more on the food and less about the decor.

So instead of working on table settings, I focused more on a centerpiece that I could easily remove from the table to accomodate the trays like this one.

Rustic Farmhouse Christmas Tablescape
Since I was so busy cooking and entertaining, I forgot to photo my table on Christmas Eve – Sorry! Too keep it festive for the holidays, I used this centerpiece on my DIY Tabletop and removed it when we added the trays. Since I used all paper products, everyone just grabbed what they needed and sat down when we were ready to eat.

Hosting a Christmas Clambake

When I offered to host Christmas Eve this year, I thought it would be super fun to host a Christmas Clambake!

I had twenty three guests attending so I doubled Martha’s recipe, pre-ordered the seafood and planned ahead how the meal would be served.

As an aside, doubling the recipe worked well because we enjoyed some apps prior to sitting down.

We had no leftovers though, which was perfect!

Because we were hosting twenty three guests, we used our DIY tabletop to fit as many as we could around the table.

To keep things simple yet neat for Christmas Eve, I decided to go with paper products and aluminum trays.

Three trays to serve the meal and three for the discarded shells.

Clean-up was a breeze when we were done!

How to Host the Best Clambake Ever

Martha Stewart’s Stovetop Clambake Recipe

While I followed Martha Stewart’s Stovetop Clambake Recipe to the letter, I did make a few adjustments to make it easier for myself to prepare while entertaining guests.

For starters, I did not not use any seaweed nor have I ever used seaweed to separate the layers.

I’m not really sure the difference it would make but it’s not a necessary step if you don’t have access to it.

I also just used whatever beer I had on hand.

For the Christmas Clambake, I used Sam Adams Winter Lager and the dish was AWESOME!

How to Host the Best Clambake Ever
The first layer of seafood in the stockpot.
How to Host the Best Clambake Ever
My dogs wanted to get in on the Christmas Clambake prep!

Clambake Cooking Tips

Whenever I entertain, I try to do as much prep work as possible before guests arrive.

I do not want to slice, dice and prepare food while I’m entertaining because I lose too much focus.

Because that’s how I like to entertain, I prepped all of the ingredients ahead of time. I had everything in bowls ready to go before the guests arrived.

I also created a cheat sheet from Martha’s recipe so I knew how the ingredients were layered and cooked in the stockpot.

This saved a lot of time from referring back to the recipe while entertaining guests.

When I am ready to start cooking, I can quickly refer to the cheat sheet, add ingredients to the pot, and follow the cooking time.

As part of my pre-guest arrival prep, I cleaned the shellfish and debearded the mussels then let them sit in water again to get any final grit out before tossing in the stockpot.

Before adding them to the pot, I lifted them out of the water gently with a slotted spoon.

How to Host the Best Clambake Ever

When we picked up our seafood for the Christmas Clambake, the market made an error in our order and omitted the mussels all together.

Uh oh!

Because it was Christmas Eve, they did not have many fresh mussels left. They gave me whatever fresh mussels they had on hand and these frozen ones that were already cooked and open. While not ideal, I adapted and the dish still tasted great.

While those mussels weren’t the same as fresh ones, the overall dish was not affected by it. I layered them together with the fresh mussels and cooked according to Martha’s directions.

And it all worked out!

How to Host the Best Clambake Ever
This looks and smells amazing!
How to Host the Best Clambake Ever
I polled guests and ordered tails for any guest that wanted one. Can you believe we ordered nineteen tails? Yummo!

How to Host the Best Clambake Ever

Final Thoughts

Have you ever hosted a clambake before? It’s more typical to summer fare, but it was so fun do one for Christmas Eve! It was so good and everyone seemed to really enjoy it.

I totally want to do it again next year!

Since this recipe is so easy to make, this would make a GREAT theme for New Year’s Eve too. It’s such a fun way to celebrate…anything!

Shop Cooking Supplies for a Clambake

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How to Host the Best Clambake Ever

How to Host the Best Clambake Ever


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