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How to Host the Best Clambake Ever

Have you ever been to a clambake before?

They are so much fun to attend and not hard to host!

In fact, I’ve made this a Christmas Eve tradition here for my family and it’s a lot of fun.

Today, I’m sharing how to host an amazing clambake with the best recipe that’s super easy to make!

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!

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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.

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 salad.

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.

My First Clambake

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!!!

How to Host the Best Clambake Ever

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.

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

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.

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.

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
It looked so good we all had to take pics with it!

Tips For Hosting a Clambake

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 like this.

If I am doubling the recipe, I use two stockpots of similar sizes 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 cooking.

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

Here are tips 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 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!

How to Set a Table for a Clambake

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 LIKE THESE to keep it a little neater and easier to clean up.

Christmas Eve

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.

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 accomodate the trays like this one.

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.

Rustic Farmhouse Christmas Tablescape

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.

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

More About 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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

How to Host the Best Clambake Ever

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.

How to Host the Best Clambake Ever
This looks and smells amazing!

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!

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!

Final Thoughts

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!

How to Host the Best Clambake Ever

Looking for More Seafood Dinner Ideas?

Wait until you try these super simple seafood dishes!

Shop Cooking Supplies for a Clambake

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How to Host the Best Clambake Ever
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