Grilled Clams with Tarragon Butter

Grilled Clams recipe

This grilled clams recipe was featured as part of Anna Rossi’s story “Happy as a Clam” from our Summer ’17 issue, “Salt.” For more creative, seasonal recipes like this one, pick up a copy of our beautiful, book-quality print magazine.


In her story for our Summer issue, Chef Anna Rossi explains how she and her family savor a lazy, breezy summer day in their adopted hometown of Cape Anne, on Boston’s North Shore. To prepare for a relaxed outdoor dinner, they pick some veggies and herbs at a nearby farm, then dig for clams and collect mussels at the beach. Later, they fire up the grill and cook a beautiful, kid-friendly feast including these grilled clams.

Many don’t live in places where we can dig our own clams (though, it does sound so nice!), but that doesn’t mean we can’t also enjoy the pleasures of succulent bivalves, kissed with smoke, swimming in a little shell full of butter and their own savory juices. For those who haven’t ventured into grilling past the occasional burger or hot dog, this is a fantastic way to branch out. Littleneck clams are available in most grocery stores and fish markets, and prepping them is easy enough. A simple compound butter with shallots and licorice-scented tarragon adds the perfect finishing touch.

Grilled Clams with Tarragon Butter

Serves 8
Recipe by Anna Rossi

Total Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Active Cooking Time: 8 minutes

  • 3 pounds littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 2 cups alder or applewood chips
  • ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
  • 3 tablespoons minced shallot
  • Salt, to taste
  • Clam knife for shucking
  • Smoker basket, optional
  • Pastry piping bag for the compound butter, optional

Preheat a charcoal grill, keeping the coals to one side to leave an empty space on the grill for indirect cooking. Alternately, preheat a gas grill to medium-high.

Using a clam shucking knife, shuck the littleneck clams. Remove the empty top half and run the blade beneath the clam meat to slice through the muscle that attaches the clam to the bottom shell. This will result in clams on the half shell and will make eating them after they have cooked easier, less messy, and more fun.

Arrange the shucked clams on a heatproof rack.

Sprinkle the woodchips in a smoker basket, or wrap them in an aluminum foil packet and poke some holes through the foil.

Place the smoker basket or foil packet over the direct heat side of the grill. Place the rack of clams on the indirect heat side of the grill. Close the grill lid to contain the heat and flavorful smoke. Cook the clams with the grill closed until the clam meat has firmed and turned pink, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, combine the butter, tarragon, shallot, and a pinch of salt. If desired, place the tarragon butter in a piping bag with a large round tip for easy application.

Once the clams have cooked, remove them from the grill and immediately add about a teaspoon of tarragon butter to each. The tarragon butter will melt and combine with the sweet clam liquor to make a delicious sauce. Serve immediately.

Photos by Nicholas Gang

Emily Kovach is the Web Editor at Spoonful Magazine. She’s a fan of oysters, dumplings, nearly every kind of cheese, hoppy beers, and gin cocktails. While she’s intrigued by the incredible food scene in her hometown of Philadelphia, her favorite meals are at home, shared on the back porch with her cozy little family and their dog Jacket.


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