Learn how to host the best clambake ever with tips on preparation, menu ideas, and expert advice for a perfect seafood party. Make your event unforgettable!

Hosting a clambake is such a fun way to bring friends and family together for a memorable seafood feast. Whether you’re planning a summer gathering or a special celebration, a clambake offers a unique and festive dining experience.

In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know to host the best clambake ever, from menu ideas and preparation tips to setting up the perfect atmosphere for any time of the year. Dive in to discover how you can create an unforgettable clambake that will have your guests raving long after the last clam has been eaten.

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Have you ever been to a clambake party before? They are so much fun to attend and not hard to host! I’ve tried many different clambake party ideas over the years and they’ve all been big hits!

I’ve even created a Christmas Eve clambake tradition here for my family and it’s a lot of fun that we all look forward to year after year.

So today, I’m sharing how to host an amazing clambake party with the best recipe that’s super easy to make throughout the year!

Clambakes are a super fun way to celebrate summer occasions, like the 4th of July, Mother’s or Father’s Day, Labor Day, birthdays, etc. But they are also really fun to do for Christmas!

No matter when or where you want to host a clambake, keep reading for all my best clambake party ideas and lessons learned.

table decorating ideas for low country boil with red checkered tablecloth, brown craft paper, fresh cut flowers, white dinner plates, red linen napkins and red vintage stemware on a farmhouse table in the garden with green fence

What is a Clambake Party?

Clambakes are typically an outdoor party where a bunch of seafood like lobster, shrimp, clams, and mussels is served. Traditionally, clambakes are hosted at or near the beach. They are prepared outside by digging a hole in the ground, layering it with stones, and lighting a fire on top.

Since most of us don’t live at the beach, clambakes can be made in a pot on burners outdoors or on a stovetop. Sometimes you’ll see this called a clam boil vs a clambake. Personally, I like to think of these events as clambakes and stick to the traditional flavors and feel of a clambake party even if I’m not digging a hole in the sand.

Why Do They Call It a Clambake?

It’s called a clambake because it includes a combination of a variety of seafood delicacies that include lobster, clams, shrimp, and mussels together with some corn and potatoes.

How to Host the Best Clambake Ever

What is Typically Served at a Clambake?

At most clambakes, you’ll see lots of seafood, corn on the cob, potatoes, and possibly some sort of side salad.

What Dessert Goes With a Clambake?

For dessert at a clambake, you can’t go wrong with something light and fruity! Think about serving a classic New England dessert like blueberry cobbler or strawberry shortcake. Both are sweet, refreshing, and the perfect end to a seafood feast.

What Do You Drink at a Clambake?

Drinks at a clambake should be refreshing and pair well with seafood. Try serving cold beer, crisp white wine like Sauvignon Blanc, or even a light rosé. For non-alcoholic options, lemonade and iced tea are always crowd-pleasers.

I also love to serve fun cocktails for a clambake. These are a few of my favorite recipes perfect for a backyard clambake party:

How to Host the Best Clambake Ever
I mean so yum right?

My First Clambake Party

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

My brother-in-law made one on the stovetop. His clambake was super amazing and I wanted to throw one when we got back.

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!!!

Looking at Martha’s Stovetop Clambake recipe, it boils down to layering the ingredients in the pot and cooking them in accordance with proper timing. I mean, how easy is that?

The hardest part is the food prep, but even that is fairly easy. It’s a little more time consuming though than most of the recipes I make, but the result is totally worth it.

After I found Martha’s Stovetop Clambake recipe, I hosted my first clambake party for friends that same summer 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 by how simple Martha’s recipe was to make!

And of course, I needed a good drink to serve as well, so I made this AWESOME watermelon sangria that is a must-try for a fun summer cocktail.

I’ve thrown a few clambakes since then using Martha’s recipe and the result is nothing short of fabulous every time! Since I don’t have great quality photos from the first clambake I hosted, here are a few pics from the second clambake I threw when we rented a house in Long Beach Island, NJ with family the following summer.

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!

Tips For Hosting a Clambake Party

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

Here are a few more tips to hosting a clambake.

Buy High-Quality and Fresh Seafood

Because I wanted the highest quality ingredients for the clambake, I pre-ordered the seafood from one of our local markets. I suggest going with high-quality seafood, wherever you can find it locally. To cook the clambake, I used very large stockpots. If I am doubling the recipe, I use two stockpots of similar sizes to fit all the seafood.

How Many Clams Per Person for a Clambake?

Plan on about 1 to 1.5 pounds of clams per person. This usually works out to roughly 10-12 clams each, depending on their size. It’s always better to have a few extra than to run out! This may vary depending on how many other types of seafood you’re cooking along with the clams. If you’re adding in mussels, lobster and shrimp, for example, you may not need as many clams.

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 cooking. I seriously dislike sandy clams and mussels, so cleaning them well is a must.

Preparing seafood for a clambake involves a few key steps to ensure everything is fresh and flavorful. Start by sourcing high-quality, fresh seafood such as clams, lobsters, mussels, and shrimp.

Clean all shellfish thoroughly by scrubbing and rinsing them under cold water to remove sand and debris. Soak clams and mussels in saltwater to help expel any remaining grit. Keep seafood chilled until you’re ready to cook.

For added flavor, marinate shrimp and lobster in a blend of herbs, garlic, and lemon juice. Proper preparation guarantees a delicious and memorable clambake experience.

To learn more about preparing the seafood for your clambake, read these articles to clean shellfish and debeard mussels.

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 them both 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!

Creating the Perfect Table Setting for a Clambake

Creating the perfect table setting for a clambake involves blending coastal charm with practical elements to enhance the dining experience. Start with a sturdy, weather-resistant table and cover it with a nautical-themed tablecloth.

Use rustic, durable dinnerware and provide plenty of napkins or wet wipes for easy cleanup. Incorporate centerpiece elements like seashells, candles, or small flower arrangements to add a touch of elegance.

Ensure there are ample utensils for cracking shells and serving seafood, and provide individual bowls for butter and dipping sauces. The right table setting will make your clambake both beautiful and functional.

Styling a table for a clambake can be as simple or as elaborate as you want. And you can do it a few ways depending on the season and whether you are hosting it indoors or out.

I’ve been to a few clambakes where the tabletop decor was as simple as newspaper on the table and then the clambake was dumped right on top.

Guests stood around the table, ate with their hands and discarded shells right on the table. Could that be any simpler?

A little messy, but it was super fun! I’ve also been to clambakes where the meal was served a little more neatly in bowls and trays.

When I host, I opt for huge aluminum trays to keep it a little neater and easier to clean up. I purchase 2x the amount of trays so that one could be used for the clambake and the other could be used for the discarded shells. It works very well.

Clambake Party Decor Ideas

The type of decor you’ll use for a clambake party depends on where and when you’re hosting it. For a summer backyard clambake, I love to keep things simple and on-theme. 

Picnic or nautical elements like blue and white striped tablecloths or even fishing nets draped over tables would be easy and beautiful. Adding string lights to your outdoor dining area also adds a special touch to any gathering.

Although I love to create festive and elaborate tablescapes, I keep mine pretty simple for clambakes I host.

So instead of working on actual table settings, I focus more on a seasonal centerpiece that I could easily remove from the table to accommodate the trays. You can get ideas for easy centerpieces you can make in minutes in my guide or explore some of my favorite seasonal centerpieces.

Ultimately, you should consider what will work for you and the number of guests you will have. Once you host one, you’ll see how you like serving a clambake.

Hosting a Christmas Clambake

When I offered to host a Christmas Eve clambake a few years ago, I knew it would be fun, but I had no idea how much fun it would be! And we’ve hosted one every year since!

We hosted twenty-three guests that first year, 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. It was just enough after serving a few appetizers prior to sitting down.

And the best way to fit a lot of family around the dining table is with our DIY tabletop to fit as many as we could around the table. It’s a must for any clambake party (or other party) I host!

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!

Stacy Ling and freshwood farms making stovetop clambake for Christmas eve. How to host the best clambake party ever

Making 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.

She’d probably say otherwise, but I don’t do this step.

I also just used whatever beer I had on hand.

The last Christmas Clambake I hosted, I used Sam Adams Winter Lager and the dish was AWESOME!

So no worries on the variety of beer you use either.

I also found it easier to make a cheat sheet of the recipe so I could quickly layer the ingredients without needing to read through the full recipe.

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.

How to Host the Best Clambake Ever
The first layer of seafood in the stockpot.

Tips for Cooking a Clambake

Do all of the prep work ahead of time before guests arrive. It’s much easier to slice, dice, and prepare the seafood ahead than trying to entertain while working. Then set everything in bowls ready to go before the guests arrived.

As part of the pre-guest arrival prep, clean the shellfish and debeard the mussels. Then let them sit in the water again to get any final grit out before tossing in the stockpot.

Last Christmas, the market made an error with our seafood order and omitted the mussels all together. Uh oh!

And because it was Christmas Eve, the market did not have many fresh mussels left. So they gave me whatever fresh mussels they had on hand, as well as these frozen ones that were already cooked and open.

While not ideal, I rolled with it and the dish still tasted great. The frozen, cooked, and open mussels weren’t the same as fresh ones but overall, the 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! I’m telling you, this recipe is so good and easy to work with!

Final Thoughts

Hosting a clambake is a fantastic way to create lasting memories with friends and family. From selecting fresh seafood to setting a beautiful, nautical-themed table, every detail contributes to the experience.

Remember to keep the atmosphere relaxed and enjoyable, allowing guests to savor the flavors and camaraderie. With thoughtful preparation and a welcoming environment, your clambake is sure to be a hit.

As an aside, doesn’t a Christmas clambake sound like so much fun? I know clambakes are more typical for summer parties, but it is super fun to do at Christmastime. Our family seems to really enjoy it, so it’s become a Christmas tradition.

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

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear! And feel free to share this post with anyone you think would find it helpful too.

Thank you for visiting the blog today!

Enjoy your day! xo

Stacy Ling bricksnblooms logo
How to Host the Best Clambake Ever

Looking for More Seafood Dinner Ideas?

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Shop Cooking Supplies for a Clambake

How to Host the Best Clambake Ever
How to Host the Best Clambake Ever

How to Host the Best Clambake Ever
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
How to Host the Best Clambake Ever
My dogs wanted to get in on the Christmas Clambake prep!
Rustic Farmhouse Christmas Tablescape
Christmas Eve

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