How to Open and Serve Oysters

An anonymous poet once wrote:

“ The oyster is a prolific bivalve, raises its young inside its shell. How it piddles is a riddle, but it does so what the hell !”

We couldn’t agree more, no need to over analyse oysters just enjoy them, but be damn sure that you know how to prepare them, there’s not a lot worse than eating a ‘dodgy’ bivalve!…

Opening or shucking an oyster takes a bit of practice but once you’ve got the hang of it there’ll be no stopping you. Here are some essential shucking tips:

oyster-shucking-knife1) Store your newly bought oysters in the fridge or surrounded by crushed ice – cover with a wet cloth ( do not put in an airtight container as they need to breathe).
2) Give them a scrub under the cold tap before opening.
3) Be sure to discard any that are not tightly closed. If they are not then they are dead and should not be eaten.
4) Protect your hands and use a good quality oyster knife
5) Check for flakes of shell that are floating in the juice and remove them once ’shucked’ these are easy to spot as they generally float around the edges of the juice.
6) Do not throw out that lovely sea juice it plays a major part in the oyster eating experience.
7) Be sure to serve your oysters as soon as possible after opening, they should not be prepared in advance: 10-15 minutes maximum is preferable.
8) Serve on a bed of Rock salt or crushed ice for maximum presentation and, more importantly, so that the oysters don’t tip to the side losing that lovely liquid!

Here’s a video showing how to open – or ‘shuck’ – an oyster, and then eat and enjoy it:

How To Eat Oysters

TASTE NOTE: So many people think that an oyster should just be swallowed down whole immediately – what nonsense! Hold the oyster in your mouth while swallowing those lovely ’sea flavored’ juices, then press it up onto the roof of your mouth, gently crush it with your tongue to release yet more of those subtle flavors THEN swallow don’t treat the oyster like bad tasting medicine that has to be swallowed down as quickly as possible!

To accompany your oysters offer a choice of toppings, liquids, sauces. While an oyster tastes just great without any accompaniment there are a few that add variation such as as a simple squeeze of lemon juice, a dash of Tabasco or chili sauce, horseradish sauce (or fresh and very finely diced radish). My personal favourite is finely chopped shallots in red wine vinegar which features in the next video:

How To Make Oysters In Two Classic Sauces

What do those Oyster numbers mean e.g. Falmouth Bay no. 2′s ?

#1 = plumpest
#2 = next size down
#3 = etc.

Size varies greatly between different varieties too i.e. the Edible, the Eastern, the Olympia, Pacific, Sydney rock oyster, and the Wellfleet oyster. Varieties are then broken down into regional areas e.g. Falmouth Bay although essentially they are the same variety. Like any animal or crop some areas grow better results than others, hence price variations.

Not all oysters are edible in fact the likelihood of your finding a pearl in your freshly shucked oyster are, sorry to say, remote indeed as the ‘pearl oysters’ are not generally sourced as food but purely for their pearly contents.

Tips on storing oysters for a few days:

If you really have to store them for a day or three throw some crushed ice into an ice box – you know, the insulated picnic hamper kind. Add a layer of oysters, more ice, more oysters etc. Finish off with more ice and sprinkle cornmeal on the top ( this will release nutrients into the cold water so that the oysters have a food supply). In the absence of cornmeal use a corn based breakfast cereal e.g. Cornflakes

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Tags: oystersseafood

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