Oysters are considered to be an extravagant and lavish food item in many different cuisines. Some cultures regard them as an aphrodisiac, and commonly hold the belief that eating oysters can make a man into a more potent and skilled lover, although the validity of this claim has yet to be substantiated by science.
If you’ve never eaten an oyster there are definitely some things you should know before you try them. If you’ve tried them before, you may be surprised to find out that there are more ways than one to enjoy this often under-appreciated and misunderstood delicacy.
Keep reading to learn more about how to order and eat oysters like an expert next time you are sampling the seafood at a Summerlin restaurant or elsewhere.
Tips for Oyster Novices
Until you’re sure you like oysters, it is best to avoid potent varieties. Oysters are filter feeding animals. Because of this, the flavor of the oyster is affected by the conditions of the place in which it grew. The closer an oyster is to mud with high salt levels, the higher intenitensity of briny mineral flavor it will have.
People who are new to the game should also go for oysters that are smaller in size. Oysters that are 2”-2.5” in size are usually a good calls. Beau Soleil oysters, Montauk Pearls or anything farmed from the Chesapeake Bay are all good calls.
It’s also important to note that you may want to avoid oysters during the summer months, as that is their spawning season. The oysters may be a bit creamier during this time. They aren’t bad for you per se. However, many people find the texture to be quite unpleasant and to be avoided.
How to Find The Best Oysters
In order to find the freshest high-quality oysters, your best bet is to find locations that are well known oyster-eating destinations. Seafood restaurants are often staffed with chefs and servers who are oyster consumers themselves, and thus have an exceptional knowledge of the proper techniques and practices for handling and eating raw delights they are serving you.
If you are going to eat a whole animal that was alive a minute ago, it better be as fresh as can be, and it’s always good to know that they were chilled until prepared, and shucked specifically for your order.
Even better is to find a place that shucks the oysters while you watch, or even allows you to shuck them yourself. If you eat them within five minutes of that moment you always get a better product.
One safe bet is to find a busy restaurant with a reputation of serving up oysters of many varieties. The higher the turnover, the more likely your oysters will be fresh. You should also sample different varieties of oyster if possible, as they vary in flavor from location to location. This will give you an idea of what you like and don’t like.
How to Tell if your Oysters are Fresh
Seafood, if not stored and handled properly can be a major culprit of food poisoning. The best way to ensure that you are only eating the freshest oysters is to use your senses and best judgment. Fresh oysters shouldn’t smell like the bottom of a bait bucket, in fact, when seafood smells very pungent and “fishy,” that is a good indication that the fish is not fresh. Fresh seafood will always have a mild ocean-water smell.
Oysters should always be stored on ice to preserve their freshness, even a few minutes in the warm air can turn an oyster into a harboring ground for harmful bacteria. If the oysters are not chilled when they arrive at your table, or appear to be milky or discolored, avoid them at all costs.
How to Dress Oysters
Oysters are almost always served with some sort of sauce, and there are quite a few popular ways to dress oysters, including:
- Mignonette -a condiment made with minced shallots, cracked pepper, and vinegar.
- Sambal – Sambal is a hot sauce or paste typically made from a mixture of chili peppers with secondary ingredients such as fish sauce, garlic, ginger, shallot, lime juice, and vinegar.
- Citrus Juice – Lemon and lime are the most common, but bitter orange and grapefruit juice also add a unique twist to this unique dish.
- Cocktail Sauce – Made with tomato puree and minced horseradish, this quintessential seafood accoutrement is a classic standby for many different kinds of seafood.
- Hot Sauce – Simple Hot sauces made from chilies and vinegar like Frank’s Red Hot are a standard in the southern United States, with traditional mexican hot sauces like Tapatio and Cholula being among the most popular on the west coast.
But How Do I Eat Them?
There are 2 steps to eating oysters. Slurp and chew. First, separate the meat from the shell with a fork. Hold it at the hinge, slurp the meat and all of its liquor from the edge, and then chew.
Like a fine wine, oysters must be aerated. Its merroir is just as much in the meat as the liquor, and the subtle flavors will be released as you break up those cells. If you don’t chew, you won’t be able to enjoy the subtle flavors and textures of salt, sweet, and mineral. You’ll probably also look like a novice to those around you.
Whether you are an experienced oyster connoisseur or a novice, there is always a new way to enjoy them. Try them with different sauces or spirits, or make your own custom blend of flavors to top them with. The possibilities are endless.
What is your favorite way to eat oysters? Do you like them plain, with lime and salt, or with a bit of cocktail sauce? Leave us your favorite flavor combinations in the comments below.