Main Dishes

New England Clambake and Clambake Sauce

By Yankee Magazine

Jun 15 2013


This important regional feast requires the freshest softshell clams, native seaweed, corn, potatoes, lobsters, sand, and salt air. Here’s how to build and cook a clambake, step by step.

1. Locate a beach where clambake-making is permitted; you can build one elsewhere, but it won’t be the same as one prepared next to the ocean. Assemble a group of friends to help with the digging — and the eating.

2. In firm sand, dig a hole 3 feet deep and 4 to 6 feet across.

3. Line hole with roundish rocks, preferably dry ones about the size of an adult’s head. Try to use all igneous rocks, or those that are nonporous and will hold the heat.

4. To heat the rocks, build a fire in the hole, using driftwood or hardwood you’ve brought along. Allow at least 4 hours of burning to get rocks hot enough. To test the temperature, sprinkle salt water on random rocks; it should sizzle on contact with each rock.

5. When rocks are white-hot, rake out wood and ashes. Cover the bottom rocks with 3 to 6 inches of wet seaweed. (The idea is to create as much steam as possible for cooking.)

6. Quickly add a layer of tightly shut clams (previously washed clean of sand), another layer of wet seaweed, live lobsters, more seaweed, a layer or two of small new potatoes, more seaweed, a layer of unhusked corn, and a final thick layer of seaweed.

7. Cover entire hole with a wet tarpaulin or canvas, and anchor securely all around the edges with rocks so steam cannot escape.

8. Let clambake steam for approximately 1 hour. Periodically check under cover and poke down with a stick to see all the layers. The bake is done when clams are open, lobsters are bright red, and potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork.

9. Serve with lots of melted butter, and follow up with cold watermelon for dessert.

Clambake Sauce


1 pound butter
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 pint tarragon vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 bottle (2-1/2 ounces) Worcestershire sauce


Melt butter in a saucepan. Stir in Tabasco sauce, vinegar, lemon, and Worcestershire sauce. Cover and simmer 5 to 10 minutes, until well blended and thickened.