Should You Rinse Canned Clams Before Eating Them?

Fresh seafood, and in particular shellfish, can be a big luxury to eat. That's because unless you live right on the coast (and sometimes even then), these foods can be pretty pricey. The good news is that thanks to a man named Nicolas Appert, we've been able to can foods since around the 19th century. 

You can find just about any food imaginable in cans, including seafood such as clams. Canned clams are convenient, shelf-stable, and budget-friendly, making them a great alternative to their fresh counterparts. Plus, these canned shellfish actually come pre-cooked. That means that you can throw them into recipes or eat them plain without having to do any additional boiling or steaming on your part. 

However, while clams are pre-cooked, that doesn't necessarily mean that you should eat them straight out of the jar. Some people feel that it's best to rinse your canned clams in cold water before digging in for a tasty snack or using them for cooking. That can help keep them clean. At the same time, others feel that rinsing could dilute your clams' flavor. To help you decide which camp you fall into, it pays to know the full arguments for each stance.

To rinse or not to rinse?

The jury is out on the debate as to whether or not to rinse your canned clams before eating. Even though they're pre-cooked, these are not necessarily the cleanest mollusks you can buy. Sometimes, canned clams can still contain dirt or grit from the ocean. Running them under cold water can help remove any of these impurities from your food. 

Besides just getting rid of dirt and grime that could have made its way into your canned clams, some brands contain additional additives and chemicals for storage and preservation. Rinsing your clams can help remove these, leaving you with just the tasty seafood. Finally, most companies can their clams with a fair amount of salt. If you're trying to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet, you may want to rinse the shellfish off, as well. Rinsing can help wash off excess salt from the mollusks.

On the other hand, while these are certainly great reasons to rinse your canned clams, some say that rinsing can dilute their flavor, even suggesting that you save the juice from the can for use as a flavor booster in your recipe.

What about fresh clams?

While there may be some debate as to whether or not you should rinse canned clams, things are a little more straightforward when it comes to cleaning fresh clams. This type of clam always needs to be cleaned before you get to work cooking with them.

Unlike canned clams, fresh clams are typically sold shell and all. Before you cook with them, you need to scrub the shells to ensure that there's no sand or dirt on them and to remove any barnacles that could be attached to the mollusks. Once you've finished rinsing your clams off, it's key to soak them in cold water. Doing so can help the clams, which are live, spit out any dirt they might have trapped in their shells.

With these tips, you're now ready to get to work cooking clean and tasty clams, whether you opt for the fresh or the canned variety. And, just remember — there's some debate as to whether canned clams need rinsing, but if it's fresh clams you're working with, cleaning is a must.