How to Clambake: Party Ideas for the Beach or the Backyard

The traditional clambake requires a secluded spot on a New England beach. We should all be so lucky! If you are near the beach (or if you want to drop a couple of tons of sand in your backyard) try the "On the Beach" clambake you'll see below. If you're not on a beach you can still have a Clambake on the Grill!
 
Clambake Invitations
Break out the butter and let everyone know that your Clambake is not to be missed with a fantastic invitation. For a unique and easy invitation, send a personalized clambake invitation. Include a seafood bib to let guests know they are in store for a messy (and tasty) time.

Or make your own invitations! Use brightly colored cardstock and some fun wording:
  • Come fill your plate at the Henderson's Clambake! If you don't show, we'll be "steamed"
  • Aww SHUCKS! Bill is turning 40! Let's celebrate with a clambake!
  • Time for the Stepic's Annual Clambake! BYOB (Bring Your Own Bib!)
If you are having your clambake on the beach, toss a little clean sand into the envelope. How is that for authenticity?

Clambake Decorations and Party Supplies
Whether you are having the clambake on the beach or at home, a few decorative touches will take your clambake from ho-hum, to wow-whee! For a fantastic entrance, attach a personalized clambake banner in between two inflatable palm trees to announce the party to the arriving guests. Line the path to your party area with tiki torches or citronella candle buckets.

String white twinkle lights everywhere to create a festive, fun mood. Fish cutouts can decorate walls, your deck, or hang them on string and suspend them from your party tent. Throw in a few inflatable lobsters and plastic crabs to complete your seascape!

Clambake Table Decorations and menu
Cover the tables with blue tablecovers, and have plenty of nautical themed paper goods available. Make it easy on your guest by creating silverware bundles; just wrap plastic silverware in cute nautical themed napkins, and tie it with a puca shell necklace as a napkin ring. Set out lemon wedges and butter on a serving dish.

For a great centerpiece use sand pails filled with sand as balloon weights, and tie balloon bouquets made of dark blue, light blue and white balloons to the handle. Stick a few blue glow sticks in the sand for a great evening look. Provide a few additional sand pails on the table for guests to throw their empty shells in.

Clambake on the Beach: The Traditional New England Clambake
  • If you want to have a traditional clambake you start by digging a hole in the sand at the beach. Line the bottom of you hole with stones, and then build a fire over the stones.
  • Let the fire burn for a few hours. Your stones are hot enough when water immediately turns to steam when it hits them.
  • When the rock are hot enough, rake off the coals and cover the rocks with seaweed.
  • Place single servings of your clambake into cheesecloth packets (food in the middle, tie the ends together). You can customize your clambake by using whatever shellfish or seafood is available locally. Typically the packets will include clams, lobsters, potatoes, peeled onions, and corn.
  • Place the cheesecloth packets on top of the seaweed, and then cover them with more seaweed. Let the packets steam for 2 hours. Serve packets with melted butter, lemon wedges, salt and pepper.
 If you’re stuck in the Midwest like I am (or anywhere that is landlocked for that matter), there aren’t a lot of opportunities (if any) to have a traditional clambake.  But you don’t need to live by the ocean to celebrate the end of summer with a clambake.

Clambake on the Grill
If you do not have a beach handy, you can still have a fantastic clambake on your grill. Wrap the food in cheesecloth like you would for a traditional clambake, and then place the cheesecloth packet in an aluminum packet that has a little seaweed in it (if you don’t have seaweed you can add about 1/4 cup of water). Place the packets on your hot grill and keep the lid closed. The food will be ready in about an hour.
 
Trashcan Clambake
That's right, clambake in a trashcan.  Not only does this alternative cooking method work well for lobsters and clams, but I’ve also been to trashcan bakes where the hosts cook sausage and chicken instead.  While those who have never been to a trashcan feast may at first be skeptical about this unique cooking method, they’ll instantly be amazed at the delicious food this process produces.
 
 Materials
  • Clams and clam basket
  • Lobster or chicken
  • Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Hotdogs
  • Spices and meat rubs of your choice
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Seaweed or burlap
  • Non-galvanized metal trashcan with lid
  • Hammer and nail (to poke holes in the lid)
  • Two cement blocks
  • Chicken wire or grill racks
  • Fire retardant gloves and long tongs
    
Directions
  1. Preparations start the day beforehand with your ingredients.  Clambakes include a variety of foods, like clams, lobster or chicken, potatoes, corn, and even hotdogs.  Remove husks and silk from the corn and soak overnight in saltwater.  If using chicken, make sure to apply any rubs a day in advance.
  2. Before your fire, make sure your trashcan is set for cooking.  Use a new non-galvanized metal trash can with a lid.  You want to make sure your can is non-galvanized because galvanized cans can emit fumes when heated.  
  3. Nail several holes in the lid, so that steam can escape when you are cooking.
  4. Start a fire about four hours before you want to serve dinner.  Let it burn down, and set up the trashcan on two cement blocks over the fire.  There should be room underneath the can to maintain the fire. (The trashcan should not be sitting directly on it.)
  5. Add 2-3 inches of water in the bottom of the trashcan.  Some people like to add a cup of vinegar to the water for flavor.
  6. Now it’s time to add the food! The food must sit above the water level at the bottom of the can (preferably 5-6 inches up).  Use either grill racks or a bundle of chicken wire to do this.  Once you have a steady base, you can begin layering the food.
  7. In traditional clambakes, seaweed is used as a layer between different food items.  Many people don’t have easy access to seaweed.  Try to get it if you can (it makes the food taste delicious), but you can use clean wet burlap instead.
  8. Start with a layer of seaweed or burlap on the bottom and then layer with the lobsters (belly down) or chicken.  Alternate with corn, potatoes, and hotdogs with layers of seaweed in between. Make sure the can is not packed too tightly to allow for each layer to cook thoroughly.  On top, put your clams in a wire basket.  Add any seasonings as you go.
  9. When the clams open, this is a signal that your food is cooked.  Depending on how much food you layer in the can, this may take between 1 ½-3 hours.
  10. Remove the trashcan from the fire, and use long tongs to place the food on separate platters.  Put salt, pepper, and lots of butter, and enjoy!
Safety Tips:
  • Use a non-galvanized metal trash can.
  • Have an adult maintain the fire and watch over the can at all times.
  • Use fire retardant gloves when handling the can and removing food.
Clambake Bar
Decorate your bar with fish netting, and stick a few plastic lobsters in the netting. Serve your drinks in glowing glasses, these are always a hit at my parties! Place a large galvanized bucket filled with ice, beer and water (which have personalized bottle labels of course!) on the ground near the bar for those who just want to grab a quick drink. Hire a bartender (or appropriate a friend) to mix a few specialty drinks; we recommend Sex on the Beach (tee-hee).
 
Sex on the Beach
  • 2 parts Vodka
  • 1 parts Peach Schnapps
  • 2 parts Orange juice
  • 2 parts Cranberry juice
Serve in a hurricane glasses, over ice. Garnish with an orange or lime slice.

Clambake Party Favors
Thank your guests for coming to your fabulous clambake by sending them home with a fantastic party favor. Fill a mini beach tote with sunglasses, a paper fan, and a personalized clambake candy bar.

Photographs are always a great way to remember special events, so set up the beach muscle man and beach bikini babe photo ops, and provide an instant camera so your guests can snap a few fun shots to take home.

Your clambake will be so much fun; your guests will anxiously await your next event! With ideas and products from Party411.com you know that all your celebrations will be memorable ones.