The Best Ways to Eat Oysters
Eating Fresh Oysters
There is very little chance that anyone will ever convince me that there is a better way to eat oysters than in their natural state. By simply opening the oyster shell, freeing the flesh and drizzling it with an optional squeeze of lemon juice, the true flavour of oysters can be experienced. I am aware, however, that this way to eat oysters is not to everyone's taste, so we will also look at some alternative options.
Tips for Buying Fresh Oysters
In common with other types of shellfish, great care has to be exercised when buying or collecting fresh oysters. If the oysters are dead, or come from polluted water, they can make you very sick or worse. The best way to be safe in this respect is to purchase fresh oysters from a reputable supplier and eat them preferably on the day of purchase, or alternatively keep them in the refrigerator overnight and eat them the following day.
I am extremely fortunate to have access to the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar in the West of Scotland and although I am aware that most people will not be so fortunate, an Internet search for suppliers will hopefully yield acceptable results in most regions. Alternatively, you may be able to locate a dedicated seafood restaurant in your area, where all the work of opening the oysters will be undertaken on your behalf and you are required only to eat and enjoy.
Opening—or Shucking—Fresh Oysters
The process of opening an oyster shell is called shucking. It is imperative that safety be the prime concern in this technique as a very sharp knife is required and the nature of the process makes it entirely possible that the knife may slip.
It is possible to buy cut resistant gloves and a dedicated oyster shucking knife but when these items are unavailable, a thick towel or cloth and a sturdy, short-bladed knife will suffice. The towel should be folded as shown and the oyster shell wrapped in the towel, with the hinge (pointed end) sticking outwards. The oyster should be held firm and steady with one well protected hand while the point of the knife is used to find the small gap in the shell near the hinge. By inserting the knife in to this gap and twisting, the hinge will be popped and the most difficult part of the procedure complete.
Be careful not to simply pull away the top part of the oyster shell at this stage. The oyster will still be attached to it and the knife should be gently slid along the inner surface of the upper shell to free it and ensure the oyster meat is kept as whole and presentable as possible. The top of the oyster shell may thereafter be lifted away and discarded.
Do remember, however, that the oyster will still be attached to the cup or lower part of the shell. There is a small, white, circular disc on the wall of the shell that is the muscle that holds the oyster in place. The connection between this muscle and the oyster should be carefully severed with the knife.
Video Showing How to Shuck an Oyster
Fresh Oysters With Salad and Lemon Juice
This is the perfect way in which I like to enjoy fresh oysters. When the oysters have been shucked, try not to spill any of the water that will remain in the cup along with the oyster. Simply check carefully for any loose remnants of shell, which should be removed.
I have served the oysters as shown below on a bed of shredded lettuce and finely sliced white onion, tossed in black pepper and salt before being plated. A tomato half provides the additional garnish and the lemon should be squeezed on to the oysters prior to eating. The oysters should be lifted one by one and tipped in to the mouth from the blunter end, water and all. The oysters should be allowed to glide over the palate and swallowed whole. It is the taste buds at the back of the mouth and in the throat which will pick up on their delicious, natural flavour.
Fresh Oysters With Herb and Cheese Crust
This way of preparing oysters is a small concession to those who would rather eat their oysters cooked. Although the oysters themselves are not cooked, the process of forming the crust on top of them does heat them through.
The crust is a mixture of equal portions of cheese and fresh breadcrumbs, with a little freshly chopped basil and finely chopped red bell pepper. Freshly ground black pepper is added for seasoning.
The oysters are shucked as normal but in this instance, the water is drained away. A teaspoonful or two of the mixture is carefully added to the top of each oyster and the shells are placed under a hot grill for about six or seven minutes, until the crust is browned. Care should be taken when lifting the oysters from the grill shelf to the plate, as the shells are likely to have become very hot.