Oysters 101: How to Eat & Enjoy Oysters on the Half Shell


Recently I visited the John Dory Oyster Bar in NYC for an oyster tasting. If you’d asked me to attend such an event two years ago, I would have laughed and vehemently rebuked the invitation. I used to find raw oysters repulsive; the one culinary chapter I couldn’t subscribe to. I just couldn’t see the appeal of knocking back a raw sea creature whole.

I reluctantly tried one in college, and couldn’t bring myself to try again until culinary school, when we had to eat them.  Slowly, through a steady process of bucking up and making myself try them, and a little trial and error, I started to love them, and now I feel compelled to order them whenever they appear on a menu. If you’ve never tried raw oysters, or have and disliked them, I urge you to try again, implementing the tips below. It’ll be well worth your while.

In spite of my oyster enthusiasm, I knew very little about how to order them. Aside from knowing that I prefer small oysters (the bigger ones still give me pause) with lots of lemon on the side, I didn’t really know much about how to order my oysters or how to distinguish from the numerous varieties.

  1. First, if you’re squeamish, start small. West Coast Kumamoto oysters from Oregon (my personal favorite) serve as the perfect jumping off point for oyster novices. Beausoleil from New Brunswick on the East Coast of Canada, also have a mild, meaty flavor and small size perfect for starters. Save the bigger Blue Points for the more experienced diner. Size is a good place to start when you order and you’re not familiar with the varieties offered.
  2. Pick a side: East Coast or West Coast? Or both? Each coast offers a different flavor profile and texture range, so you need to try a few to decide what you prefer. East Coast tends to taste saltier, with a more briny, fresh from the sea flavor. They have smooth-edged, rounded shells, and tend to be flatter and slightly less plump. West Coast tends to taste sweeter, more buttery, with a firmer, plumper texture, and a scalloped shell with beveled edges. Variances exist within these generalizations, but these are standard guidelines to follow.
  3. Whatever kind of oysters you decide on, they should smell fresh, salty like the sea, and look opaque, not clear. It should fill the shell, have plenty of liquor (the liquid accompanying the oyster) and not appear dried out.
  4. Pick your oyster accompaniments carefully. Purists eat oysters just as they are, in their natural liquor. I need a little lemon and possibly some mignonette or cocktail sauce to get by. A glass of champagne or a gin martini pair perfectly.

For the full article, visit Devil Gourmet. 

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