You can find razor clams in good numbers all around the UK, with the exception of the east coast of England and the north coast of Devon and Cornwall where they are less common.
They are also known as razor shells and in Scotland are known as ‘Spoots’, due to the jet of water that they can sometimes shoot out from their burrow.
There are four native species of razor clams in the UK:
- E. siliqua
- Ensis ensis
- Solen marginatus
- E. arcuatus
E. siliqua and Ensis ensis both prefer finer, sometimes muddier sand, with Solen marginatus and E. arcuatus preferring a grittier environment.
All species are edible and more importantly – all are tasty.
How do you find razor clams on the beach?
As above, razor clams can be found on sandy/muddy shores all around the UK.
A sign that they might be there is old, empty shells, that are washed up on the beach.
These shells however are only an indication, not a guarantee.
The best time to forage for them is on a low spring tide, when the water is at its lowest level possible, therefore exposing more ground.
Ideal weather conditions are very little wind or ‘chop’.
This might be a sheltered bay or similar.
Now that you have these ideal conditions, what you are looking for are the ‘keyhole’ shapes in the sand.
This ‘keyhole’ is what the razor clam sticks its siphons out of to feed.
Should you locate one, there is a chance that there may be a razor clam below.
You may find that when you place your foot nearby to the hole, you see a little spurt of water shoot out of the hole.
This is a good indication that there is a razor clam below.
Now for extraction…
The best and preferred method is to now pour some table salt down this hole and wait.
All being well, the razor clam will be irritated by this salt and should eject itself, where you can then carefully lift it out of its burrow.
Be careful not to pull too vigorously.
All being well, you should now have a nice fresh razor clam in your hands.
Now if you have found one, there will likely be more, so keep looking for those keyholes.
The video below gives a great overview:
Where can I dig for razor clams in the UK?
There are usually no restrictions to where you can dig for razor clams, but do check local bylaws.
Also, if you are digging for them, ensure you do the right thing and fill any holes you create.
It’s both unsightly and also risks somebody falling down one and twisting an ankle, should they be out there.
What do razor clams taste like?
Cooked razor clam taste like a sweet scallop, which is very nice indeed.
If you like seafood, you will likely appreciate the taste of a razor clam.
Obviously, you want your razor clams to be fresh, so eat them asap if you are collecting yourself, or ensure that any that you purchase are in tip-top condition.
Are razor clams seasonal?
Yes, razor clams are seasonal because they are best collected in the autumn and winter months.
Razor clams are filter feeders, and just like mussels, are best collected outside of the summer months, when the water quality is better.
The general rule of avoiding collecting them when there isn’t an ‘R’ in the month is a good one to follow and ensures you are outside of summer.
Is it legal to catch razor clams with salt?
Yes, it’s perfectly legal to catch razor clams with salt in the UK. In fact, this is one of the preferred methods.
The salt irritates the razor clam and it then ejects itself from its burrow, hopefully into your awaiting grasp.
Are razor clams healthy to eat?
Yes, razor clams are considered to be a very healthy meal.
They contain vitamins B1 and B12, minerals including calcium, iron and phosphorous, as well as being high in protein and containing omega-3 fatty acids.
How do you know if razor clams are alive?
If you want to check your razor clams are still alive, you can touch the fleshy part gently and it should withdraw back into its shell.
You can keep your razor clams fresh by covering with a damp cloth and storing them somewhere cool.
If you are storing them like this, make sure it’s not for too long, as razor clams need to be eaten as fresh as possible.
Storing overnight in a fridge or cool box is usually ok, but any longer than this and you want to be thinking about freezing them.
Can you eat razor clams raw?
You can eat razor clams raw, but as with most shellfish, it is advisable to cook them.
This ensures any bugs and viruses that may be in the razor clam are killed.
Cooking is therefore the safest way to eat them.
Do you need to clean razor clams?
Yes, you should give each razor clam a good rinse in fresh water before cooking in order to remove as much sand and other debri as possible.
Generally speaking, a quick rinse under the tap or clean water source will be all that is needed, but if your clams are extra sandy, they may need a bit more attention.
How do you cook razor clams in the UK?
You can follow any good clam recipe to cook your razor clams, but here’s a very simple one to try…
Steamed razor clams
Heat some fresh water in a saucepan and add some white wine, garlic (if you have any) and bring to a simmer.
Next, place your previously cleaned clams inside a ‘steaming implement’.
This can sit inside, or on top of the saucepan.
Position in place, so that they can be steamed by the liquid below.
Place a lid on top, so that you can trap the steam and allow to cook for approx 3-4 minutes, until the shells open up and the meat loses its translucent appearance.
Carefully remove the now piping razor clams and allow to cool.
All the clams should be open. If any are still closed, discard them.
Now, the only bit that you want to remove is the ‘black bit’.
This is the razor clams stomach and is best to be taken out, although if you forget, or you are feeling a bit adventurous, then you will probably be more than ok.
You can now lay out your steamed razor clams on the plate of your choice, squeeze over a bit of lemon (if you have it) and serve. Delicious!
Barbecued razor clams
Place your previously cleaned razor clams on top of a barbeque and cook until the shells open and the meat loses its translucent colour.
This won’t take long so be careful not to over-cook.
Discard any that haven’t opened.
Remove from the heat, allow to cool a little, remove the ‘black bit’ and serve with a squeeze of lemon.
Nice and simple.
Other razor clam FAQs
What do razor clams eat?
Razor clams are filter feeders and eat plankton and other small detritus which they extract from the water.
Why are they called razor clams?
They are called razor clams because they look like old-style cut-throat razors.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no hard evidence that people ever used these to actually shave, but it’s a nice thought.
What are razor clams used for?
Razor clams are mainly used for eating.
There are not many records of them being used for anything other than this, although they do look like a cut-throat razor.
Can razor clams hurt you?
No. Razor clams are unlikely to hurt you unless you step on one with bare feet.
They have a sharp shell, so they cause a bit of pain if you step on one, but the shell usually crushes underneath, so the pain is short-lived.
Hopefully, this has answered where can you find razor clams in the UK for you.
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