Nearly everyone in New England has a family member who assumes the role of "family clam boil chef." No one does it better than they do and anything other than theirs is just subpar. But those recipes don’t always get passed along to other family members, leaving some people to do the unthinkable: search online for a recipe that is just like grandma used to make.

There are tons to choose from: Portuguese clam boils, classic New England clam boils, clam bakes that are actually clam boils but people use the wrong term, etc. Where does a first-timer begin?

First, we’ll set the tone: this is a post about clam boils, not clam bakes. A clam boil is cooked in a pot of boiling water on the stove, and a clam bake is cooked in a shallow sandpit, lined with stones, and layered with seaweed to give the veggies a steam bath. The core ingredients are the same for both dishes, sure, but the names describe two totally separate experiences. Therefore, do not invite your friends over for a clam bake if what you really mean is you are going to throw some stuff in a pot and drink beers while you wait for it to cook.

Secondly, I am very aware that you can basically buy a clam boil kit from a seafood market and just throw it in a pot. This is about making your own and choosing every last thing that goes into it – of course, once we can figure out what does and does not belong in it.

Here is a list of all of the other "is it right or wrong" ingredients people across New England are using in their clam boils:

Is This How I Make a Clam Boil?

What goes in your clam boil? Let us know in the comments section under this story on Facebook.

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