Manhattan Clam Chowder

Meaty topnecks are the briny backbone of this two-part tomato-based soup.

  • Serves


  • Cook

    5 hours


By Hugh Merwin

Updated on April 5, 2023

Meaty topneck clams are the briny backbone of this two-part chowder writer Hugh Merwin developed after searching Long Island, New York for the perfect clam chowder. The two essential parts of this are first, a flavor base made from the clams, gently cooked over a long simmer to form a potent flavor base that only gets better as it ages, then second, a soup enriched with just-melted bacon fat. For best results, age the base of this soup overnight, or store in the freezer for up to one month, for the flavors to fully develop. Freezing the clams overnight makes them easier to shuck before cooking.

This recipe ran alongside the 2015 article, “In Search for the Perfect Clam Chowder.”


  • 2¾ lb. large topneck or cherrystone clams (about 3 dozen), frozen overnight
  • 4 oz. salt pork, cut into ¼-in. cubes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 medium white onions, finely chopped, divided
  • 2 cups bottled clam juice
  • One 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed by hand
  • 2¼ lb. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-in. cubes
  • 4 oz. slab or thick-cut bacon, cut into ¼-in. lardons
  • 6 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped thyme
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped marjoram
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Oyster crackers, for serving


Step 1

The day before you plan to serve the chowder, in a large colander, rinse the frozen clams with warm water for 30 seconds. Working quickly while they’re still frozen, shuck the clams, discarding their shells, and coarsely chop the meat by hand. Set aside.

Step 2

In a large pot set over medium-low heat, cook the salt pork, stirring occasionally, until its fat renders, about 12 minutes. Add the bay leaves and half the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 1012 minutes. Pour the clam juice, tomatoes, and chopped clams into the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the soup is reduced by a third, about 1 hour. Stir in the potatoes and cook until they are fork-tender, about 12 minutes. Remove the pot from heat and let the soup cool to room temperature. Discard the bay leaves and refrigerate the chowder for at least 2 or up to 12 hours, or freeze for up to one month.

Step 3

When ready to serve, bring the soup base to room temperature. In a large pot over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until its fat renders, about 6 minutes. Add the remaining onions, along with the celery and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, 1012 minutes. Pour the soup base into the pot, add the thyme and marjoram, bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the soup is warmed through, about 30 minutes. Remove the chowder from the heat and season to taste with black pepper. Ladle into bowls and serve with oyster crackers.

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