Grilled Clams with Garlic Butter

This image courtesy of Kate Sears/Sublime

Once people taste these clams, they can’t get enough. This dish has a flavor so exquisite that it belies this very simple preparation. We have served this appetizer at Summer Shack since the day we opened, and it is still one of our best sellers. Grilled clams are best made with small, special-count little necks (about 1 ½ inches wide). You just put the clams directly over the hot fire—but you must take them off the grill as soon as the shells pop open, or they will burns, right through the shells. Place them on a bed of rock salt to hold them steady and spoon a few drops of sauce on each clam.

NotesBuilding the fire and setting up the grill:

Start by filling the bottom section of a chimney starter with crumpled newspaper; usually two sheets. Place the chimney on the bottom rack of the grill and fill the top of the chimney with charcoal. Light the paper in several spots around the bottom, and let the charcoal ignite and burn until it is covered with a layer of fine gray ash and flames are coming from the top of the chimney, about 20 minutes. The coals are now ready. If your grill is round, spread the coals in a single even layer in the center of the grill, so the heat is steady, leaving space around the periphery, so the food can be moved to the outside as necessary to finish cooking. For a rectangular grill, I also recommend building the fire in the center—that gives you cooler spots on both sides of the fire for finishing the cooking.

If you are cooking a small amount of food, a chimneyful may be all the coals you need. If you are grilling a large amount of food, you may want to make the fire bigger, by layering more charcoal over the hot coals.

Set the grill rack on the grill and let it get very hot. Don’t rush hardwood fires. After the grate is hot, clean it with a wire brush and wipe it with vegetable oil, using an oil-soaked rag. When the coals are white, you are ready to start grilling recipes that call for a very hot fire (500°F to 600°F). For a medium fire (350°F to 450°F), you will need to allow the coals to cook down for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Serves4 to 6 as an appetizer

Cooking Methodgrilling



Total Timeunder 30 minutes

Recipe Courseappetizer

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free


Mealdinner, lunch

Taste and Texturebuttery, creamy, garlicky, herby, salty, savory, winey


  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • At least 2 cups rock salt
  • 1-½ pounds little neck clams (about 24), well scrubbed
  • Grill brush
  • A pair of long tongs
  • 1-quart saucepan


  1. Prepare a medium fire (see Notes).

  2. To make the sauce: Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a 1-quart saucepan over low heat until it is foamy. Add the garlic and sauté, stirring, until it is fragrant but has not colored, about 30 seconds. Add the white wine and heavy cream, increase the heat to medium-high, and simmer to reduce by half, about 8 minutes. Add the remaining 5 tablespoons butter one piece at a time, whisking constantly until the sauce is shiny, emulsified, and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the chives, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside in a warm spot until ready to serve.

  3. Line a serving platter or plates with a bed of rock salt. Place the clams directly on the grill. Grill the clams, without turning them, until they pop open, 8 to 10 minutes. Immediately, and carefully, transfer the clams with tongs to the platter or plates. Use the tongs to pry off the top shells. Spoon 1 teaspoon sauce over each clam and serve immediately.


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