When I cook live clams, I usually purchase them from the local grocery store on the day I plan to prepare them. However, sometimes that is inconvenient for me to run to the store the same day.

So my question is how far in advance can I purchase them and keep them in refrigerator until I am ready to cook and have them still safe to eat?

The previously linked duplicate doesn't truly answer the question I asked, although I do see it is related. The question states that the clams in question were left out in cold water (not in the fridge). and the answer just mentions that they are "exceedingly perishable" and that they shouldn't be eaten if they died before cooking. It doesn't give an idea of what length of time that can be kept refrigerated.

  • I had closed because I thought it obvious from the other question that there is no such thing as "clams have a refrigerator life of X hours/days". But following your edit, it seems that it wasn't so obvious - so I decided to reopen and spell it out. The dupe target was cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/43157
    – rumtscho
    Feb 26 at 16:30
  • @rumtscho thanks. I can understand why you closed it originally, but yeah, i was hoping for a more straight forward answer than was in the duplicate. Appreciate the reopen and the answer. Feb 26 at 17:58

2 Answers 2


Unlike almost any other food item, you can recognize exactly when a clam is no longer safe to cook: when it's dead. So, there are no storage time rules based on time periods. If it's alive, you cook it - if it's dead, it's unsafe.

As for an estimate of how long you can keep them until they die - it doesn't have a precise answer. You can buy them the day before, and with good storage, most of the time, most of the clams will still live on the next day.

The longer you try to keep them, the larger a proportion of the clams will die - but there is no strict number of "you can keep them for X days". I'm not aware of a precise function in the sense of "if you keep them for X days, you have to expect Y% loss" either. So, experience has shown that it's best practice to buy them the same day. If you prefer to buy them earlier, you can do this, you're simply taking a chance that you'll end up with less clams (or no clams) and nobody can tell you how much less.

  • 26
    For completeness, you may want to provide information about how to recognize dead clams. (I could check if they're breathing, but I don't have a mirror that small.)
    – R.M.
    Feb 27 at 0:32
  • 3
    @R.M. you could use a dental mirror :D
    – Luciano
    Feb 27 at 11:55
  • Since this hasn't been updated: the best way to figure out if a clam is alive or not is to tap its shell; it should close tight in reaction.
    – FuzzyChef
    Mar 1 at 17:47

Based on personal experience, if you store the clams in the ideal manner, they will last between 1 and 4 days in the fridge. As the other answer says, you will lose more clams each day as they die. One major variable that you likely can't control is how long the clams were on ice before you got them; if the clams are already 3 days out of the ocean, then they're not going to last much longer in the fridge.

In practice, I never buy live clams or mussels more than 48 hours in advance, it's just too risky. If I need them further ahead than that, I use frozen.

  • wish i could have accepted both answers as i found both extremely helpful. Feb 29 at 11:34
  • That's fine, we're more about making sure that there's complete information for future readers.
    – FuzzyChef
    Feb 29 at 16:24
  • 1
    I know - and I mostly left that comment there to help someone coming to this in the future that I found this answer very helpful as well. Mar 1 at 12:32

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