The Best Ways to Eat Oysters

Updated on March 6, 2020
Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon loves cooking and experimenting with food. He loves making new dishes, particularly with unusual or underused ingredients.

Fresh Oysters
Fresh 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.

Fresh Oysters bought from the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar
Fresh Oysters bought from the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar

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.

Preparing an Oyster for Shucking
Preparing an Oyster for Shucking
Pointing out the Gap at the Oyster Hinge
Pointing out the Gap at the Oyster Hinge
A Shucked Oyster
A Shucked Oyster

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 a Simple Salad and Wedge of Fresh Lemon
Fresh Oysters with a Simple Salad and Wedge of Fresh Lemon

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.

Cheese and Herb Crusted Grilled Oysters
Cheese and Herb Crusted Grilled Oysters
2 stars from 3 ratings of these oyster serving suggestions!

Which way would you prefer to eat oysters?

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What are your experiences of fresh oysters?

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    • Gordon Hamilton profile imageAUTHOR

      Gordon Hamilton 

      18 months ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      You sound like you love your oysters as much as I do, Mike! Good to hear. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

    • puter_dr profile image

      Mitch Bolen 

      18 months ago from Midwest USA

      I love fresh oysters, as do my family. 3 of us went to an oyster bar that was running a Super Bowl Sunday all you can eat special for $29 per person. We all started with a dozen We reordered, but the reorder provided 6 each. When we hit the 10th reorder, the manager demanded that we leave.

      BTW. We like them with lemon and maybe a bit of horseradish.

    • Gordon Hamilton profile imageAUTHOR

      Gordon Hamilton 

      8 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Hi, Nola

      Thank you for your comment and - firstly - I am sorry to be so late in getting back to you.

      While I always enjoy healthy debate and appreciate that we all of us have different perceptions in many different aspects of life, I do take exception to you labelling my advice, "Bad advice."

      The advice I have given here in relation to eating oysters is not something I made up on the spur of the moment! :) It is based on nigh on forty years' experience of enjoying oysters, interacting with oyster divers, professional chefs and Highlanders and Islanders who have prepared oysters fresh from the sea for decades. I can safely say you are the first person I have ever heard advocate chewing oysters as my extensive experience has taught me this is the most common reason for "not liking" oysters.

      Your idea for cooking oysters certainly sounds delicious and I hope that you and your family continue to enjoy them in your chosen fashion for many years to come.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      i'll have to totally disagree with gordon on letting the oyster glide over your palate and swallowing them!!! i am from louisiana where we have some of the best salty, plump oysters in the world! if you don't chew the oyster you don't get the full taste and texture. just swallowing them would be like swallowing a glob of mucus(sorry for sounding disgusting, but gordon is giving you bad advise). in new orleans we like to char-broil them with a garlic,butter,and parmesean cheese sauce. try this before graduating to eating them raw on the half shell. broiled are simply delicious. my 3 and 5 year old boys eat them this way as well as raw. you just have to get really fresh and salty oysters. come to louisiana and try ours!you'll never go back

    • Gordon Hamilton profile imageAUTHOR

      Gordon Hamilton 

      8 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Hi, CZ. Smoked oysters are indeed delicious though I don't think I've ever tried them freshly smoked. I would certainly love to. Thanks for visiting.

    • CZCZCZ profile image


      8 years ago from Oregon

      looks tasty. I love to do a fried oyster as well, simply delicious...but nothing beats a freshly smoked oyster warm smoky and delicious.

    • Gordon Hamilton profile imageAUTHOR

      Gordon Hamilton 

      9 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Thanks for your comment and visit, mquee. I can not recommend this way of eating oysters highly enough. Note that the main mistake people make here, however, is in chewing the oysters - that is why so many people screw up their face and vow never to eat them this way again. Let them glide over the palate and swallow them whole. You will still taste them at the back of your mouth and in your throat. Enjoy!! :)

    • mquee profile image


      9 years ago from Columbia, SC

      Although I have only eaten my oysters steamed, the salad and lemon juice recipe sounds tempting. I will give that one a try. Thanks for sharing.


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