The oyster has long been valued as a culinary delicacy, although it’s easy to understand why the famous 18th-century satirist Jonathan Swift wrote, “He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.” Within its rough, hinged shells rests the soft, edible body—often eaten raw—which can vary widely in taste and texture. In the United States today dozens of different types of oysters are available.
The oyster has been touted widely and wrongly over the centuries for everything from improving vitality to enhancing one’s sex life. The Romans purportedly fed wine and pastries to oysters to fatten them up before bacchanals. Colonial settlers were said to eat them by the gross (144) rather than by the dozen because they were so widely available.
In recent decades, coastal development and pollution along US shores, as well as overharvesting, have greatly reduced the number of natural oyster beds. However, thanks to national seeding programs and commercial farming along shorelines, oysters are still in abundance. Although there are health risks associated with eating raw oysters, many people continue to eat this succulent shellfish on the half-shell, in addition to sautéed, baked, grilled, or broiled.
Types of Oysters
Because most oysters sold today are commercially cultivated, a wide selection is often available both live and shucked.There are just four common species of oyster, but dozens of different varieties. To distinguish them in the marketplace, oysters are typically named for their place of origin. Since oysters take on the flavor
Oysters supply a rich compendium of nutrients, including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamins C, D, and E, iron, magnesium, and selenium. They also contain an extraordinary amount of vitamin B12, which plays a critical role in the production of DNA and RNA, the genetic material in cells. In addition, these plump, mineral-rich bivalves provide a good amount of zinc, a key component in a healthy immune system. Oysters are also a good source of protein. And while they contain dietary cholesterol, they are low in saturated fat, which has a greater impact on blood cholesterol. Small amounts of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids can also be found in oysters.
For a full listing of nutrients, see Oysters in the National Nutrient Database.
How to Choose the Best Oysters
Oysters are generally at their peak in late fall and winter, but thanks to improved management, processing, and preservation, consumers can get fine oysters year-round. You may have heard the old saying, “Eat oysters only in months whose name includes the letter R (the cold months).” This rule no doubt originated
How to store oysters
It is imperative to keep oysters alive until you are ready to cook or serve them. Live oysters can be stored in the refrigerator, covered with wet kitchen towels or paper towels. Don’t put them in an airtight container or submerge them in fresh water or they will die. The key is to keep them truly cold, if possible, at 32° to 35°. Within that range, oysters should keep in a live state for about four to seven days. Be sure to look for open shells during that period. Those oysters are dead, and you should remove them so they don’t contaminate the remaining oysters.
Shucked oysters should be kept in tightly covered containers, immersed in their liquor. Preserved this way, they should keep for up to a week.
You can freeze shucked raw oysters in their liquor in airtight containers. They should keep for about 2 months if the freezer is set at 0° or colder. Be sure to thaw frozen oysters in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.
See our recipe for: Oyster Stew with Garlic Toast.
7 Ways to Cook Oysters
Raw oysters on the half shell are a briny delicacy, but not to everyone’s taste. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to also enjoy cooked oysters.First, of course, you have to get the oysters out of their shells. Unless you have experience shucking live oysters, it’s safer and faster to have
Published August 17, 2015