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How do You Cook an Oyster?

Taking an oyster from the shell is called "shucking".
Oysters should be stored on ice prior to cooking.
A plate of oysters on the half shell.
Raw oysters should be scrubbed clean with a nail brush under running water.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2014
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Some people believe that the answer to the question of how one cooks an oyster is “you don't.” In fact, oysters can be eaten cooked or raw, and there are many ways to prepare them. This seafood delicacy has been popular with humans for thousands of years, and oysters are also the oldest example of aquaculture, for those who like a little food history with their dinner.

Selecting these molluscs is the first step in preparing oysters, cooked or not. They should be purchased live and as fresh as possible. Buying oysters directly from the company that harvests them is an excellent idea, although they can also be purchased from a fishmonger. Fresh oysters should be packed in ice if they are on display, and their shells should be tightly closed. If the molluscs smell briny or fishy, they should be avoided. It is also possible to purchase oysters that have been cooked and canned for dishes like stuffing or sauces.

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When oysters are brought home, they should be kept chilled before use. When a cook plans to serve the oysters raw, they should take them out of refrigeration and scrub the outside of the shells with a nail brush under cool, running water. If the oyster has opened, it should be discarded. For raw eating, cooks shuck the oyster by wedging an oyster knife into the shell and cracking it open to expose the flesh. Some people like to freeze their oysters for 10 minutes before shucking to relax the muscles. Raw oysters are classically eaten with a dash of hot sauce and lemon juice, and they may be accompanied with rye or pumpernickel bread.

To cook an oyster, there are a number of options. Chefs can steam, broil, bake, or boil an oyster until it opens, and then just until the edges start to curl, which usually takes two to three minutes after the shell opens. Some people add butter or a sauce to the mollusc once it opens to season it. In a twist on these techniques, it is also possible to barbecue oysters, a method that produces a very mild smoky flavor. Barbecued oysters should be placed on the grill until they open, dressed with a sauce or seasoning of choice, and then grilled until their edges curl.

Some people prefer to shuck their oysters before cooking, such as for a seafood sauce for pasta. In these cases, after shucking, the oysters can be tossed into a pan to be cooked. They should be added at the last minute so that they do not turn rubbery. These molluscs can be used in seafood sauces, soups, stews, and a variety of other dishes. Some people also enjoy adding them to stuffing.

Eating raw oysters can potentially be dangerous, so taking the time to cook an oyster will greatly reduce the risk of picking up a food-borne illness. People who are pregnant or who have compromised immune systems should always cook oysters before eating them, because they are at increased risk from bacteria and viruses. For the rest of the population, as long as raw oysters are fresh and handled properly, the risk may be acceptable, but consumers should be aware that contaminated oysters look no different from safe ones.

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anon305017
Post 4

Can I microwave oyster dressing?

Babalaas
Post 3

@ Alchemy- I like to make my own smoked oysters.

I buy large oysters, and I shuck my oysters and blanch them in boiling water for about 10 seconds. After blanching them, I place them on a clean kitchen towel to dry while I set up the smoker.

I arrange the oysters on a piece of steel mesh and smoke them over cherry smoke, turning them constantly. I smoke them at around 200 degrees until they reach the desired texture.

Any oysters not eaten on the spot can be stored in oil for at least a couple of weeks.

Alchemy
Post 2

@ Fiorite- I have a similar oyster recipe that makes delicious oysters. The recipe uses a champagne cream sauce poured over poached oysters in the half shell. It sounds complicated, but it is very simple.

I wash and shuck my oysters saving the shells and the juice. I put the shells on a baking sheet and turn the oven to the warm setting, preheating both the shells and the ovens.

In a sauté pan, I sweat a minced shallot inn a few tablespoons of butter. Next, I add a glass or two of dry champagne, and I reduce the liquid by half. Once reduced, I add the oyster juice and a pinch of salt and pepper.

After the broth is hot, I add the oysters and poach for two minutes. After poaching the oysters, I add them to the warm half shells and return to the warm oven. I add cream and reduce the sauce until it becomes smooth and thick. I spoon this sauce over the poached oysters and serve with lemon wedges.

Fiorite
Post 1

I like to broil oysters when I eat them. I always cook my oysters because I live in a landlocked area, so I don't feel like they are fresh enough to warrant eating raw. Here is my favorite recipe for broiled oysters.

I shuck the oysters, leaving them in a half shell. I pour a splash of white wine and a spoonful of cream sauce over the top. I sprinkle the oysters with tarragon, and top with shredded Gruyere cheese. I broil the oysters in the oven until the cheese bubbles, and then serve.

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