How to Throw a Backyard Clambake


Ask Chef Phyllis:

Once when visiting San Diego, we were invited to a beach party. This event was called a clambake. Everything was cooked by a team of men. It took hours and seemed to be a lot of work. But the food was delicious: potatoes, corn on the cob, clams, sausage, and I  know for sure that lobster was served. Maybe about 60 people ate and drank either wine or beer with the meal. I live in central Kansas and had never experienced this kind of party before. Can you tell me how to do this for about 6 to 8 people in the backyard?
—Tammy Reinhardt from Hutchinson, Kansas

A clambake is entertaining made easy and a quintessential summer party—especially if you’re nowhere near a beach. Steamed clams and mussels, juicy corn, baby potatoes flavored with sausage and lobsters—how can you go wrong? If you have at least a 16-quart stockpot and either a gas or charcoal grill, you can do this easily. It’s simple to prepare everything in advance.

Steam cooks the meal, and proper layering is the key to success. For a carefree clambake with friends, follow these simple instructions.

Backyard Clambake

Serves 6–8


1 lb. kielbasa or smoked sausage, sliced into 1-inch circles
2 lbs. clams, cleaned and scrubbed
2 lbs. mussels, scrubbed and debearded (this means to cut or scrape away the little tuft of fibers)
18–20 small red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and halved
6–8 ears of corn
3 lobsters, about 1¾ lbs. each
1–2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
1 lb. butter, melted
Lemon wedges
Creamy Blue Cheese Coleslaw (recipe follows)

Special equipment: tall 16–20 quart stockpot with lid; 1 large cheesecloth (about 20×20 inches)


  1. Heat a gas grill to medium or have a charcoal grill ready with glowing hot coals (they must remain glowing hot for at least 25 minutes).
  2. Rinse the stockpot with warm water (do not use soap).
  3. Prepare 1 even layer of kielbasa or smoked sausage slices in the bottom of the pot.
  4. Lay the cheesecloth out on the counter. Add cleaned clams and mussels, then tie it up loosely. Place this on top of the kielbasa.
  5. Add 1 even layer of potatoes, then a layer of corn. Finally, carefully fit the lobsters into the pot. Sprinkle evenly with Old Bay seasoning. Cover tightly with lid, pushing down if necessary.
  6. Place the stockpot on the grill for 20–25 minutes—no peeking. Open carefully. Remove lobsters to a platter to cool. Spoon the corn into a dish and the potatoes into a bowl.
  7. Remove cheesecloth, then cut it open to release the clams and mussels. Arrange them on a platter.
  8. Remove the kielbasa from the stockpot and add to the potatoes. Next, detach the lobster claws and tails, displaying them on the platter with the lemon wedges. Serve immediately with melted butter for dipping in a separate bowl.

Creamy Blue Cheese Coleslaw

10 cups shredded green cabbage (about 1 head)
½ cup blue cheese crumbles
½ cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon raw honey


  1. Place shredded cabbage in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
  2. Chill for at least 1 hour. Toss before serving.

Chef Phyllis


To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:

  • chemical- and hormone-free meat
  • wild-caught fish
  • pasture-raised, organic eggs
  • whole, unrefined grains
  • virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
  • whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
  • pure, clean, spring water
  • sea salt
  • raw and/or cultured milk and cream products

Creative Commons photo by Arnold Gatilao

Phyllis Quinn

Phyllis Quinn is a chef, food writer, and founder of Udderly Cultured, a class that teaches how to make homemade fresh mozzarella, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, and other cultured products. Private lessons are available. For a reservation, call Phyllis at 970-221-5556 or email her at Rediscover nearly lost cooking methods and get one-of-a-kind recipes in her books The Slow Cook Gourmet and Udderly Cultured: The Art of Milk Fermentation.

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