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12 things you need to host the perfect clambake

Your guests will be singing your praises for months to come.

Steamed clams at a clambake Credit: Getty Images

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In many parts of the country, fall is clambake season. The air is crisp, shellfish are in season, and the time is right for some good old-fashioned finger food. But what exactly do you need to host the perfect clambake? Here’s our guide to what you’ll need to throw a seafood soiree to remember, from stock pots to silverware.

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1. An invitation

Clambake invitations from Etsy
Credit: Etsy

You can find almost any style of invitation on Etsy.

While it’s easy enough to throw together an email invitation for an event these days, something about a mailed invite just feels a little more festive. Consider commissioning a custom clam-centric invitation just for your party. There are plenty of cute options on Etsy, from gingham numbers to cartoon clams to a more subdued blue shellfish scene. Most Etsy cards come as a digital download, too, so you could just throw it in an email if you’d like or take it to the local print shop to have some copies made up for the mail.

2. A recipe

Eventide recipe book cover
Credit: Eventide

Whip up a recipe from a James Beard Award-winning chef.

There are plenty of great recipes for clambakes online from Rachael Ray’s take to Bon Appetit’s festive fare. You’d be in good hands with any of those. If the printed word is more your speed, though, there’s always Eventide: Recipes for Clambakes, Oysters, Lobster Rolls, and More from a Modern Maine Seafood Shack. Created by the chefs at one of Maine’s most beloved restaurants, the book contains a recipe for a classic Maine-style clambake, with instructions for making it both at your house and out in the wilderness. Pick your poison.

Get "Eventide: Recipes for Clambakes, Oysters, Lobster Rolls, and More" from Amazon for $21.96

3. A stockpot or a roasting pan

King Kooker boil pot and stockpot
Credit: Amazon

An outdoor boil pot or stockpot will help you prepare all of your dishes.

Depending on the size and style of your clambake, you’re going to want either a big stockpot or a large roasting pan. If you’re doing the whole thing outside with no access to a kitchen, consider a stand-alone propane cooker, like this King Kooker, which comes with two big pots and a turkey hook, should you want to use it a month or so later for Thanksgiving.

If you’re going to be cooking on an actual stove, then you should be good with a stockpot. Amazon users love the Imusa 20-quart pot, which has an average 4.4 stars with over 5,000 reviews. It’s not fancy, but it’s big, has two handles and a lid, and is made of stainless steel, so it will get the job done.

Lastly, if you’re thinking of using an oven or a grill, you might want a roasting pan. If you don’t have one, consider picking up this set of three roasters in various sizes, which Amazon users love. They’re always nice to have around, and because these are made of durable carbon steel, you should be able to use them for years and years to come.

4. Clams, clams, and more clams

Steamed clams
Credit: Sizzlefish

These babies are the real star of the show.

For a classic clambake, you’re going to want to pick up littleneck clams. Estimate about a dozen a person if you’re also doing sides, chicken, sausage, and more, or maybe 18 a person if the clams are small. If your store doesn’t have littlenecks in stock, you can order them from one of our favorite seafood delivery services. We like Sizzlefish, which sells Cedar Key clams in 72-count bags. Another place we like, Maine Lobster Now, offers Cape Cod littlenecks by the six count, so you can get a little more granular about your order.

5. Even more shellfish and sides

Steamed shrimp and lobster tails
Credit: Sizzlefish

Supplement your clams with some seafood sides.

For a lot of people, a clambake is clams, sausage, chicken, and corn. But depending on where you live or what you’re into, you might also throw a lobster tail and a few shrimp into each boil bag, or brew up a big pot of chowder to serve as an appetizer. All of this can be bought online, including at our aforementioned faves Sizzlefish and Maine Lobster Now.

We also like Crowd Cow, which sells fair-trade wild shrimp along with wild boar andouille sausage, which could be a great addition to any boil bag.

6. A scrub brush

OXO scrub brush
Credit: OXO

Clean up your clams with this scrubber.

Before you drop your clams in a pot, give them a good scrub to remove all the sand, dirt, and whatever else. Amazon users love the OXO vegetable scrubber for all of their food cleaning needs, giving it an average 4.8 stars with over 10,000 reviews. Fans say it has a great grip, and it could also be handy for little red potatoes, should you decide to throw those in your boil.

Get the OXO Vegetable Scrubber from Amazon for $6.99

7. Boil bags

Boil bags for steaming shrimp and clams
Credit: Amazon

Boil bags will make your clambake prep so much easier.

If you’re looking to make individual clambake bags for your guests, you’re going to need the right accessories. You can grab a box of 120 seafood boiling bags on Amazon for under $20, and that should be enough to feed any crowd.

Get the Cornucopia Seafood Boil Bags (120-Pc) from Amazon for $19.99

8. Tablecloths

Plastic tablecloths and butcher paper
Credit: Amazon

Cleanup will be a breeze if you use tablecloths and/or butcher paper.

Clambakes can be a messy affair, so make sure you cover up your furniture, even if it’s just an old folding table. It can make the whole event a little more festive, and you’ll be glad when your picnic table doesn’t smell like shellfish come Christmas time. If you’re traditional, you might like a pack of plastic gingham tablecloths from Amazon.

If you’re looking for something equally traditional, consider brown butcher paper. You can get a 100-foot roll from Amazon, and if you don’t use it all, you can always grab a few markers and bows and turn it into wrapping paper for the holidays.

9. Disposable plates and bowls

Compostable bowls
Credit: Amazon

Save yourself the hassle of having to do dishes by using compostable bowls.

If you’re planning a big event, you’re probably going to need some disposable—and durable—tableware. And, hey, why not consider the environment while you’re at it? Amazon users love these compostable bowls, which come in a 50-pack and are made of plant byproduct material. They’re kind of chic, too.

Get the Harvest Pack Compostable Bowls (50-Pc) from Amazon for $20.99

10. Butter warmers, metal buckets, and lobster bibs

Butter warmer and metal buckets
Credit: Amazon

Details like butter warmers and buckets can be game-changers.

A good clambake lives or dies by its accessories. It’s fun to eat good food with friends, but it’s even more fun if the host has gone the extra distance and popped for all the fun accessories.

For instance, we love a good plateside butter warmer. Throw one or two on each table, or spring for one per guest. Hiware’s 4-ramekin set comes with tea lights and is praised by Amazon buyers for its quality, as well as how easy it is to clean.

Before things get too messy, your guest might want to cover up. Consider picking up a box of disposable lobster bibs, which are always kind of silly and can make a party a little more fun.

Lastly, for your guests’ ease and your own sanity, put out some metal buckets for all the shells, cobs, and detritus. Throw one on the middle of each table, hand out the clams, and let the satisfying symphony of shells hitting metal begin.

11. Moist towelettes

Wet Wipes towelettes
Credit: Amazon

Help guests keep their hands clean with individual wipes.

Whatever you call them—wet wipes, moist towelettes, or those little things you get when you eat ribs in restaurants sometimes—everyone appreciates a good pre-moistened towel after a down and dirty clambake. You can grab a 100-count box of the traditional little restaurant-style ones from Amazon for under $7, or if you’re looking to add a little germ protection, you can get a case of Wet Ones in individual 24-packs that that guests could even take home with themselves as a little favor after the event. It’s the thought that counts.

12. Wine, glorious wine

Firstleaf and Winc wines
Credit: Firstleaf/Winc

What's a clambake without wine?

Lastly, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that a classic clambake is made all the better by a nice glass of white wine. If you’re prepping for the big event in advance, you could use one of our favorite wine subscription services to stock up on a number of options, sparkling and otherwise. [We’re partial to Firstleaf, which sends you six bottles for just $40, as well as Winc, which lets you pick how many bottles you want at any given time.

If you’re looking to buy a la carte, there’s always Drizly, which our reviewers called “North America’s largest online alcohol marketplace,” and connects you with wine, beer, and spirits retailers near you that are ready and willing to deliver. Selection may vary based on where you’re located, but you can probably find something good there—and pick up some beer and liquor while you’re at it.

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