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Oysters 101: Your Ultimate Guide on How to Select, Store, Clean and Shuck Oysters

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Preparing Oysters at Home Is Easier Than You Think

Whether eating them raw on the half-shell served with a side of mignonette sauce, grilling them, frying them and stuffing them in a New Orleans Po Boy, baking them in Oysters Rockefeller (a classic recipe originating in New Orleans), or smoking them - oysters are a favourite in The Chef & The Dish Test Kitchen.

The majority of oysters in North America are enjoyed at a restaurant, but at The Chef & The Dish, we believe in constantly learning new dishes and home cooked meals. Cooking together is a fantastic date-night and adding oysters to your cooking repertoire will add a whole new level of satisfaction.


Here are tips and tricks on oyster varieties, how to select the freshest oysters, how to store oysters, how to clean them, and finally, how to shuck oysters.

There are hundreds of varieties of oysters. While many North Americans now eat a range of oysters cultivated in North America - many oyster varieties aren't native to us. Several oyster types are only native to the Asian Pacific, specifically Japan and Australia. With modern technology, oysters are cultivated in farms that produce beautiful shellfish here in our backyard - but if you're an oyster lover and find yourself in Japan, seek out a local guide who can take you on an oyster experience during your visit.


There are a number of varieties of oysters from the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf

ATLANTIC, PACIFIC, AND FLAT OYSTERS - OH MY.

A GUIDE ON OYSTER SPECIES AND POPULAR VARIETIES

Trying different varieties of oysters is half the fun and eventually you’ll find your favourites. But what's the difference between Blue Point and Fanny Bay? There are five main species of oysters, but hundreds of names. The species defines its overall characteristics and size. The names of oysters generally come from the waters in which they're raised, or the cultivator's savvy marketing name. Some are large, others are small, some are salty and others more mild in flavour, some can be described with melon or cucumber notes.

Keep this note handy when selecting oysters - in general, East Coast oysters send to be saltier (aka brinier) milder, and a bit smaller. Oysters found on the west coast of North America tend to be a bit sweeter and creamier.

ATLANTIC OYSTERS

These oysters are found on the East Coast or Gulf of Mexico. The ridges of the shell are generally a bit smoother than other species. Popular varieties include Malpeque, Blue Point, Wellfleets, Raspberry Point, and Cape Blue.

Malpeque: Malpeque Oysters are one of the most popular oysters in North America. They’re cultivated in Prince Edward Island, Canada - an important location for oysters. They are affordable, easy to eat, and have a nice balance of saltiness.

Blue Point: Blue Point oysters are arguably the most popular in North America. They’re cultivated on the eastern coast, primarily off the coast of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. They’re popular for a reason - they’re salty and robust.

Apalachicola: It's important to make note of this variety. These Gulf oysters are found in the wild off the Florida pan-handle in the area of Apalachicola. They are fat, plump, rich, sweet, known as one of the best oysters in the world, and unfortunately now in scarcity. They are difficult to find outside of the hyper-local area. In September 2012, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services notified the Governor of a ‘situation quickly becoming a crisis’. He outlined the reason for the alarming decrease in oyster resources including drought conditions and an off balance of fresh and salt water conditions.

PACIFIC OR JAPANESE OYSTERS

These oysters are native to Japan, but now due to their adaptability can be found all over the world. They usually have pointed shells. Popular varieties include Fanny Bay, Penn Cove, Kusshi, and Golden Mantle.

Fanny Bay: These fantastic oysters are cultivated in British Columbia and are known to be smooth with a fresh finish.

Penn Cove: Penn Cove oysters are cultivated in the Northwest in the Northern Puget Sound and have won the Most Beautiful Oyster Awards several times running. They are very popular and have a distinct crispness and freshness to them.

KUMAMOTO OYSTERS

Another oyster originating from the coasts of Japan, but is now also cultivated off California and Washington. They are small, super sweet, and creamy. They used to be considered part of the Pacific or Japanese Oysters, but are actually their own species. They are often just called by their species name 'Kumamoto' because it's highly valued.

EUROPEAN FLAT OYSTERS

Originally found across Europe, but now cultivated in farms in Maine, Washington state and elsewhere. They are known for their flat appearance. They tend to have a metallic flavour and can be a turn off to novice oyster eaters.

Belon: These bold oysters are not for the faint of heart. They can be described as almost crunchy and intense with a finish that is gamey. They are found off the coast of France in the Brittany region.

OLYMPIA OYSTERS

Mostly found on the Pacific Northwest, these are smaller oysters and have a sweet and metallic flavour. These oysters