A Complete Guide to Oyster: How to Store, Shuck & Serve
What are Oysters?
You either love them or hate them, but mostly you love them. Oysters are salty and slippery with meaty, briny morsels hiding between a clasped shell, and can be eaten in several different ways. So what are these tiny shells that are so famous?
Technically speaking, Oysters are referred to as bivalve molluscs and come from the same family as clams and scallops, which consists of fleshy, grey-beige meat and clear, salty liquid that is ever so precious, inside a rocky shell. Did you know that Oysters used to be considered a peasant food in the 19th century? How tables have turned, as they are now considered to be ‘fine dining’ with restaurants charging an arm and a leg for a small portion. However, fret not, as there are other ways to enjoy this delicacy which won't break the bank such as buying from us at Fish To Your Door.
How to STORE Oysters?
Once you have received your box of fresh Oysters, first and foremost check that the shells are closed and unbroken. If some of them have opened, which can sometimes happen whilst in transit, simply tap the oyster firmly on the bench and it should close by itself. If the Oyster closes when tapped, it means the Oyster is fresh and fine to consume. You should discard those that do not close even after being tapped.
Once you’ve checked your Oysters, clean the shell with a stiff brush under running cold water, and then place the Oysters ‘cup-side down’. Oysters have a flat-topped shell on top and a scooped underside, so ideally, you want them to be sitting on the shell. This way, should the oysters open slightly, the oysters' liquor (clear pool of seawater in the shells) should remain within the cupped shell.
To maintain their freshness, wrap the Oysters in a damp tea towel or cloth and place in the fridge, closest to the freezer. Whatever you do, do not store Oysters in a sealed container; or on ice; or in water; or in the freezer.
In order to freeze them, you must shuck them first (see below), and can be kept in basic freeze bags for up to 5 days after receiving them.
How to SHUCK (open) an Oyster?
Heard of the saying - ‘the world is your oyster’? - well, what should have followed after that was ‘if you know how to shuck!’. Once you’re done with our pointers, you will be a skilful shucker, and the doors of fresher and cheaper Oysters will be open for you.
For those who don't know, ‘Shucking’ is the name of the skill used to split the shells in two- a little tricky, but definitely worth the time and resource! Although many people use any kitchen knife to shuck an Oyster, please be aware that it can be rather dangerous and it is not recommended, as it can also damage the meaty part. Hence, to perfectly shuck an Oyster, use a shucking knife which is basically a short knife with a thick, pointy blade that makes the whole process much easier.
Below is a simple step-by-step guide to perfectly shuck your Oysters:
Use the right tool i.e. Oyster knife and shuck on a flat surface, with either a glove or a kitchen towel to protect your hand from getting hurt.
1. Start at the hinge: slowly insert the blade, pointed down, into the hinge until it feels secured in and then twist the knife around to pop open the shell (usually an audible ‘pop’ sound will be heard)
2. Cut the muscle: once the shell has popped open, slide the blade of the knife underneath the top shell, and use circular motions to cut the abductor muscle that attaches the meat to the shell from the bottom and top
3. Liquor: make sure to retain the Oysters liquor as that is one of the most vital parts of an Oyster, that really brings the additional briny taste in the mouth
4. Ready to go: once popped and cut out, you’re all ready to serve the Oysters which can be cooked/prepared through various ways
How to SERVE Oysters: Condiments & Pairings We Love
There are several ways that Oysters can be enjoyed and depending on your taste and requirement, the world is literally your oyster in terms of options of delicious condiments that are perfect additives. If you’re a naked kind of person, that is also fine as the taste of these saltwater babies technically needs nothing more. Nevertheless, below are some of our favourite additions.
This is an extremely easy dressing and simple to prepare by adding minced shallots, cracked pepper, vinegar, olive oil and a dash of lemon juice. If you’re feeling adventurous, and want to take things a notch higher, why not add sparkling rose/champagne or some premium quality tequila to really get that dinner party started?!
2. Good old Tabasco sauce
A popular and time saving way to enjoy Oysters if you like a hint of chilli and lemon, with a pinch of salt in your mouth
3. Lemony Pesto
The bright flavor of pesto, along with the richness from pine nuts and garlic, and acid kick of lemon juice is a surprisingly lovely match with oysters. Freshly made pesto can be thinned down with lemon juice, with a sprinkle of ground black pepper and salt to taste. It’s not conventional, but definitely tasty and we love it.
4. Red Wine Vinaigrette
Another classic everyone loves. The quickest condiment ever, all you need is a good quality red wine vinaigrette, some castor sugar to cut through the citrus flavour of vinegar, and finely chopped shallots.
5. Asian Spice
If you like a kick of spice and love those oriental dressings, then this specially created recipe is a must try. Slightly more ingredients are needed but well worth it - some sesame oil, mirin sauce, soya sauce, finely grated ginger, finely chopped garlic, lemon zest and fresh coriander.
Finally, we leave you with pairings we love for different occasions. As Oysters are normally served as starters, the choice of alcoholic beverage is also important in setting the right vibe. For those classic dinner parties that are slightly more formal, light-bodied, crisp, dry white wines and chilled chardonnay-based champagnes work wonderfully. The trick is to match the brininess of the Oyster to the acidity of the wine/champagne.
For those more casual evenings or for a relaxed catchup with friends, try serving crisp cold lagers, or a light, smooth beer to match your informal setting. Now, if you want to get really creative and fun, why not add some premium sake to your drinks menu to take your oyster game to a whole new level, or even a popular gin martini as a palate cleanser.
If you’re unsure with what ambience you are going for, here's a little test: sip some of the beverage you have in mind, then consume the oyster (be sure to chew the meat). Then, take another sip of your beverage and let both flavours meld. The aim is to ensure that the two flavours are synergistic and neutral, and not combative!
P.S. Don’t forget to keep your Oysters on some ice, as no one likes them warm and neither do they maintain their freshness! Presentation is everything, so why not invest in an Oyster tray, filled with ice and lemon wedges on the side to finish it off?
If you have a new way of consuming Oysters, then be sure to tag us on our Instagram with your unique recipes so that even we can benefit from your creativity!