Ask anyone who is hesitant to try oysters the reason, and they’ll all say the same thing – they look slimy, snotty, and generally all-around unappealing. Getting past this first impression of them may be difficult, but it is not impossible.
What makes oysters so special to many people is how distinctively they taste and smell like the ocean. When they’re eaten raw, it’s almost like taking a straight shot of the sea. Now if you dislike the ocean and are not a fan of seafood, then oysters will most likely never be the delicacy for you. But if you love seafood and are open and willing to try something new, even if the idea freaks you out, then this is the blog post for you.
Oysters are a delicacy enjoyed by millions of people around the world, and there’s a reason for this. Not only are they able to turn grains of sand into the most magnificent pearls, but they are also incredibly delicious and nutritious. Once oyster alone contains up to 2g of protein and is packed full of important nutrients such as vitamin D, zinc, iron, copper, and selenium.
They’re so loved, in fact, that they are believed by many to be an aphrodisiac. And while their effects on sexual arousal have very little scientific evidence, the common belief alone is enough to warrant a try.
And so instead of thinking of them as snotty, rather think of them as soft and tender, and instead of thinking of them as unappealing, think of them as the food of love. This shift in mindset may be just what you need to try your first one.
“He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.”
― Jonathan Swift
Try them in winter
Although not commonly known, oysters in the summer months are actually prone to be milky and unpleasant due to the spawning process that the heat kicks into action. The oyster meat is often softer and more watery than when harvested in the winter months, when it should be more plump and sweet.
Taste aside, oysters harvested in warmer waters also have more potential for carrying pathogenic bacteria, which can be dangerous. This general unpleasantness can be avoided by sticking to eating oysters in winter, especially if it’s your first time trying them.
Make sure the strain is top quality
In all honestly, unless you are harvesting and shucking them yourselves, there is only so much control you have over the quality of your oysters. But that being said, there are a few things that you can check for to ensure that the oysters you are consuming are top quality.
Firstly, and most importantly, make sure that the restaurant or fishmonger you are getting your oysters from is reputable. This will have the single most influence on the quality of the oysters they are serving. Have a look at their website and reviews before ordering, and make sure that no one has complained about their oysters before. If they don’t have a website, ask around until you find someone who has tried the seafood from them in the past. Trust us, this simple step can save you a whole load of pain and discomfort later on. Also make sure that the oysters are being served in their original shells, and preferably over a bed of shaved ice (although this doesn’t matter that much as long as the oysters themselves are still chilled).
The next best way to identify a bad oyster is by taking a sniff of it before eating. We promise that you won’t look as strange as you think you do – most oyster-lovers should be doing the same. They should smell fresh and like the ocean. If you detect any hint of another scent, especially one that makes you wince, then you should definitely give those oysters a skip.
Next you should check the shell for any cracked or damaged areas, as this could be an outward sign of trauma. The oyster itself should be cold, firm, and plump, never warm or dried out.
Lastly, go ahead and have a taste! You should immediately be able to tell if it’s a bad oyster or not. Good oysters should taste like seawater, but not overpoweringly so. They should be delicate yet firm, and still have a bite to them.
If you do all of this and don’t detect anything off, then you’re good to go ahead and polish off the entire plate.
Start with cooked oysters
If the texture of oysters is still too much of a hurdle for you to get over, then start by eating them cooked. Not only does this essentially eliminate the risks of eating them raw, but cooked oysters are also essentially a delicacy of their own. Well-made cooked oysters should taste salty with a hint of sweetness.
The following is a simple yet mouth-watering baked oyster recipe with a hint of tarragon. Do yourself a favor and try it. Even an oyster novice is bound to love it!
Servings: 2 people
Prep Time: 20 minutes
- 12 Fresh Oysters
- 2 cups Double Cream
- Bunch of Fresh Tarragon (can use dried or frozen, 3 tsps of either)
- 1 Warm Baguette
- Grab a sturdy knife
- Grasp oyster shell tightly (flat side up)
- Guide knife between shells and twisty sharply to open oysters (aim to do this in one movement)
- Leave oyster water in the shell DO NOT DRAIN
- Mix tarragon with double cream (could also add a slight dash of vinegar for extra acidity)
- Warm bread under a grill or broiler
- Place cream mixture on the oysters in their shells
- Bake at 220C (420F) for 10 minutes or until the cream has crisped up and gone brown
- Rub fresh garlic clove on your bread
- Add a hit of lemon juice
Pro Tip: Add a hint of lemon juice at the end to add some vibrancy to the dish. Also, rub one fresh garlic clove over your bread after toasting it to bring another flavor to this lovely party.
Eat them like a pro
Let’s face it – half of enjoying something is just doing it with confidence. Eat your first oyster as if it’s the 100th time you’ve done it, and you’re bound to enjoy the experience, even if you don’t end up liking the oyster itself!
Here are some tips on how to eat your first oyster with the confidence of a professional:
Use only a small fork
Oysters are finger-food and should be eaten with limited cutlery. A small fork can be used to loosen the meat from the shell and to add condiments, but otherwise your hands should be doing all the dirty work!
Tip it and flip it
Once the meat has been loosened, bring the shell right up to your lip and tip the oyster meat and brine in (yes, the liquid in the shell should be consumed too!). Flip the empty shell and place it face down on the plate the oysters were served on, or another designated plate if you’re worried about germs.
The fastest way to give yourself away as a rookie is to swallow everything straight away. Let’s face it, oysters aren’t cheap, and by swallowing them straight you are missing all of the tastes and textures that they have to offer. Make sure to chew the meat at least once, so that its full flavor profile can be admired.
Eating oysters raw and with nothing added can make even the most experienced oyster eater wince. And while some enjoy it like this, many prefer to add condiments to the oyster in order to enhance its flavor and ever-so-slightly cut through its salty taste.
Here we list some fan-favorite condiments to compliment your first oyster:
Adding lemon juice to your oysters is the easiest way to enhance their flavor, without taking away from the oyster itself. Simply squeeze a few drops of a lemon into the shell, along with the meat and brine, and you’re good to go!
Another lighter option to compliment your oysters is horseradish sauce. The condiment can be bought or prepared yourself, or you could go ahead and grate freshly peeled horseradish root directly into the shell. All options are delicious and pair perfectly with the salty brine and oyster meat.
Many vinaigrettes pair well with oysters, although we recommend this raspberry one. The bitterness of the vinegar with the saltiness of the oyster meat and brine and the sweetness of the raspberry makes for the perfect combination.
It is not a myth that you can add cheese to almost anything. A heartier option that is perfect for winter, melted camembert over your oyster is sure to create an eating experience unlike any other.
All that being said, your first time eating an oyster is bound to be a memorable one, even if it isn’t a particularly good one. But if it is and you find that this little treat from the ocean is something you’d like to eat more of in the future, then definitely take a deeper dive into our oyster and seafood lover blog. You are bound to find some more interesting articles and recipes that will have you absolutely drooling.