Mastering Oyster Etiquette

Nobody wants to look silly in front of friends. Or worse, a first date. That’s why it pays to learn a bit about the art of oyster eating, so you’re prepared for your next oyster bar outing. Believe it or not, oyster etiquette is nowhere near as complex as people imagine. Still, knowing how to eat them correctly will make dining on oysters much more fun and spare you any embarrassment.

Are you a raw oyster newbie? These 10 tips should help!

Choose the Right Restaurant

Search for the best raw oyster bars and restaurants in your area online. Read reviews, ask for recommendations, and make sure you find one with a robust reputation. You know how they say a bad pizza is still a good pizza? That doesn’t apply to raw oysters. Good oysters need to be good oysters: fresh, tender, and live-shucked.

Avoid Pre-Shucked Oysters

Always request live-shucked raw oysters for the best experience. Shucking involves removing the oyster from the shell, a process that should be carried out specifically for your order to preserve its freshness.

Start Small

The average oyster is around 3 inches in the shell. If you’re a beginner, start with smaller varieties that are 2 inches in size. They can be less intimidating and easier to eat.

Order a Variety

Oysters are traditionally named based on their location or bay. East and West Coast oysters differ slightly: East Coast varieties are saltier and milder, while West Coast oysters tend to be creamier and sweeter. As a beginner, try both varieties to see which one you favor.

Smell Before Slurping

Just like wine has its terroir, oysters have their own merroir, the concept of flavor derived from place. Use your nose to take in the aroma of the oysters and get a feel for their merroir. Naturally, they should smell like the sea, but the more you practice, the more you’ll get the nose for good, fresh oysters and where they come from.

Slurp, Then Chew

Slurping, not chewing is a myth too frequently attached to oyster eating. Use a tiny fork to release the oyster, then pick up the shell and slurp down the oyster, chewing once or twice before swallowing. If you don’t chew it, you won’t experience the full flavor.

Choose Lemon as a Condiment

Raw oysters are often served with a variety of condiments including lemon wedges, shallot mignonette and fresh cocktail sauce. However, eating oysters with a few drops of lemon is recommended. This way, you get a little zing without overpowering the delicate flavor of the oysters. As a newbie, why not try your first one naked? Some people prefer the natural taste of oysters and you might too.

Memorize These Buzzwords

Want to sound sophisticated in front of friends? Here are some buzzwords to bear in mind when describing the taste and texture of your oysters: sweet, salty, briny, buttery, metallic, chewy, soft, gooey, firm.

Serve with Wine

The right kind of wine can enhance aspects of both your wine and your oysters. Chablis paired with Hama Hama oyster, for instance, releases the marine quality of the wine while letting the oyster’s natural flavors linger. Other classic oyster pairings include Champagne and Muscadet. Ask your server for house recommendations.

To End Courteously

Turn over your shells in the ice once you’ve finished. You don’t have to do this, but oyster enthusiasts believe it is courtesy to the server, just like placing your knife and fork together at twenty past four once you’ve finished your meal.

Looking for Professional Seafood Catering in Your Area?

Woodman’s has been serving up the freshest seafood in Essex for over a century. For superb seafood catering at your next event, call us at 800-649-1773 and we’ll help you create the perfect menu featuring your favorite foods, such as fried clams, New England boiled lobster, and of course, raw oysters.

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