How to dig razor clams

Clam show

Holes and depressions in the sand where clams are underneath
Photo by WDFW

First look for a "clam show." What is a clam show? That's where a clam has withdrawn its neck or started to dig leaving a hole or dimple in the sand. There are three major kind of "shows" to look for:

  • Dimple: A depression in the sand
  • Doughnut: A depression in the sand with raised sides
  • Keyhole: A hole in the sand with very distinct sides or sometimes shaped like an "hour-glass" 

Always look for the larger sized hole shown here next to a quarter. This is a good indication that the clam will be larger, but not always.

Clams will also show at the edge of the surf line when you pound the beach with a shovel handle or your foot. They may squirt sand and water out of the hole where they are located. You need to be quick when digging in the surf as razor clams dig quite fast in the soft fluid sand. 

How to dig with a clam shovel

Photo by WDFW
1. Place the shovel blade 4 - 6" seaward of the clam show. The handle should be pointed toward the sand dunes.


Photo by WDFW
2. Use your body weight to push the shovel vertically into the sand while you drop to one knee.


Photo by WDFW
3. Remove sand by lifting the shovel upward and forward. Repeat until you can reach the clam’s shell with your hand.

Digging razor clams in Washington video

Digging razor clams with kids

Cleaning and preparing razor clams

First, rinse all sand from your clams. Place the clams in a large pan or a sink with a stopper. Pour a large volume of boiling water over the clams (about 1 quart for 15 clams). Wait about ten seconds and dump out the water or drain the sink. Immediately place clams in cold tap water and remove meat from shell. 

Transporting razor clams

The best way to transport razor clams is dry and in a cool spot. Covering them with cloth soaked in seawater can help. It is also best to clean them as soon as possible and get the meat into the refrigerator.

It is not recommended to transport them in seawater, unless for just a short time.  In seawater they continue to respirate and as a metabolic by-product they produce ammonium. In a closed container they begin to suck that back in and that can lead to an off-taste in the clam flesh.  In freshwater they die and begin to deteriorate – the same when stored directly on ice

Razor clam recipes

There are numerous recipes for cooking razor clams. Below are a few of the more popular ones for your enjoyment. Please note that you should properly clean all clams (remove and discard all of the gut material) before cooking.  For more recipes submitted by Washington razor clam diggers, download our razor clam recipes publication (PDF).

Dan's low-fat Razor Clam Chowder

Notes: Forget the salt pork, bacon, and the butter to try this tasty recipe to enjoy your razor clams and not feel guilty!

  • 2 cups diced leeks (onions can be substituted)
  • 2 cups potatoes (Yellow Finn or Yukon Gold are best) diced into ½ to ¼ inch cubes (think spoon sized)
  • 3 large cloves of garlic well diced
  • 1 Tablespoon of olive oil (or canola oil)
  • 2 pints canned razor clams chopped and liquid (or 10 medium-sized fresh razor clams)
  • 1 quart low-fat butter milk
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 2 cups (or more) chicken broth (optional if you need more liquid)
  • 1 teaspoon (or more) of Tabasco or sriracha sauce (optional)

Using a large cast iron Dutch oven (or similar sized soup pot) sauté the leaks and the potatoes in 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, until they just begin to brown. Add the diced garlic at the end and sauté for 3 more minutes. Add clams to the pot and saute another 3 to 5 minutes. Add butter milk and evaporated milk and heat to just below a simmer for a few more minutes, or until potatoes are done. Heat until piping hot, but do not boil. Serves 6.

From Dan Ayres, WDFW Coastal Shellfish Manager

Fried Clams

  • 15 fresh clams 
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 cup of cracker crumbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse clams, drain, dip in flour, egg, and roll in cracker crumbs. Using high heat, fry in 1/4 inch oil in pan. Brown quickly for one minute or until brown per side. Take out and lay out on paper towels to absorb any grease, then serve.

Razor Clam Fritters

  • 1 cup chopped razor clams (reserve the liquid)
  • 1 bottle flat beer
  • 1 1/2 cups pancake mix
  • 6 green onions, cut very thin (use greens)
  • 1/2 green pepper, cut very thin
  • 1 stalk celery, cut very thin

Mix onions, celery, green pepper, and pancake mix together. Add clams and juice to other ingredients, then add beer until you have a very thick mixture that can be dropped from spoon into hot oil at 375 degrees. You may not need all the beer because of the clam juice. Drop by spoonful in oil and cook two minutes per side, test, and if not cooked, drop by smaller spoonfuls. 

Spaghetti & Clam Sauce

  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups clams, finely chopped (about 6 big razor clams)
  • 1 cup dry white wine, very dry sherry or vermouth
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons basil
  • 3 Tablespoons Romano or Parmesan cheese (grated)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons parsley if you use dried, 1 cup if you use fresh-chopped
  • 1 package spaghetti noodles, cooked

Saute onion and garlic in butter and oil until almost tender. Add spices and wine. Simmer to reduce some liquid, then pour in the clams, parsley, and cheese. Simmer for a few minutes to warm up clams. Add salt and pepper. Pour the whole pan of sauce on your cooked spaghetti. Sprinkle on more cheese as desired.

Razor Clam Dip

  • Two 8 oz packages of cream cheese (reduced fat variety works fine)
  • 8 -10 oz chopped razor clams, gently cooked (reserve the liquid)
  • 1 Tablespoon Worchestershire sauce (brown variety)
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar to taste 
  • 3 - 4 shots of Tabasco

Add ins:

  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (if you like) for flavor and garnish
  • 1-2 finely chopped green onion(s) for flavor
  • Chili powder or paprika for some "kick and color"

Chop razor clams in processor or by hand. Cook on medium-high power in microwave in container with vented lid for 1 to 2 minutes. Do not overcook clams. Cool clams quickly after cooking by putting in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes. Mix all of the ingredients and adjust salt, sugar, garlic, lemon, Tabasco, and lemon zest to taste. Garnish and enjoy.