9 Expert Oyster Tips

An oyster should, above all else, taste like the ocean. And you should really invest in an oyster knife that feels comfortable in your hand.

Published Jan. 22, 2017.

Last week, we published an interview with oyster guru Rowan Jacobsen. Among other things, Jacobsen discussed how to shop for oysters in the grocery store, and what to look for when eating oysters at a restaurant. Today, we've got those plus five more expert oyster tips. Happy shucking, y'all.

1. An Oyster Should Taste Like the Ocean

Which ocean, however, depends on where it’s been harvested. As a general rule, the Atlantic produces oysters with a sharp brininess and an intense hit of fresh, cold sea salt, while the Pacific’s are rarely as salty and often taste complex and sweeter.

2. The Best Oyster Knife Feels Comfortable and Secure in Your Hand

The ideal oyster knife also shouldn't have too long or too short a blade. (Our favorite is the R Murphy New Haven Oyster Knife Shucker.) It’s also a good idea to wrap a kitchen towel around the hand you’re using to hold the unshucked oyster to protect it from a wayward oyster knife blade.

3. Don’t Worry About the “R” Rule

You’ve likely heard about the unwritten rule that you should only eat oysters in months that have the letter “R” in them. According to Jacobsen, this stems from back when all oysters were harvested in the wild. Oysters don’t taste very good when they’re reproducing, and they do so in the summer months. Now that oysters are farmed in hatcheries, that rule no longer applies.

4. Eat Your Oysters Any Way You Like

Rowan prefers his oysters without condiments, but he insists you should eat yours with whatever you prefer. There’s no shame in loading on the mignonette sauce—though it will mask some of the complexities that make oysters unique.

5. An Oyster's Shell Can Tell You A Lot

The larger and deeper the cup, the more it was tumbled in either natural tides or a machine, which mimics the environment in which wild oysters grow.

6. Know How to Shop for Oysters

If a raw oyster is open and doesn’t close when you tap it with another oyster’s shell, it means it’s dead. Oysters should also be heavy for their size, which means they still have their liquid inside.

7. Take Caution When Attending Dollar Oyster Nights

If you do like a deal, make sure it’s at an actual seafood or oyster bar. The oysters will be fresher and the staff will know how to properly shuck an oyster.

8. Recycle Old Oyster Shells

Jacobsen recommends throwing spent oyster shells back into the ocean so they can repopulate. Oysters need something hard to attach to, and shells are perfect. Check out the Billion Oyster Project for more information on oyster restoration.

9. Eating a Raw Oyster Can Feel Awkward

But don’t let that deter you from enjoying them. When eating an oyster on a half shell, it’s important to slurp with confidence.

How do you like to eat your oysters? Let us know in the comments! And for more with Rowan Jacobsen, read this post: 

This is a members' feature.