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Oysters

Illustration

Preparation, uses, and tips

Inspect oysters to make sure they are tightly closed. To clean, rub the shells with a stiff brush under cold running water.

To shuck, hold the oyster cup flat side up with a glove or several paper towels. Insert an oyster knife or can opener (never a sharp knife), into the small opening near the hinge. Twist to open. Once the hinge gives, slide the knife along the top shell to sever the muscle. Take off the top shell and pick out any grit or pieces of broken shell. If the oyster is very gritty, hold the oyster and bottom shell under running water. Serve raw on crushed ice.

Grilling

Place live oysters flat-side-up directly on the grill, 6 inches (about 15 cm) above the coals. Oysters are done when the shells pop open, in about three minutes.

Pan frying

Heat frying pan, then add butter or oil. Dredge shucked oysters in flour or cornmeal with herbs and spices, if desired. Place oysters in the pan and sauté until brown, two to three minutes.

Deep frying

Pour oil into a wok or deep fryer; it should be at least 1 1/2 inches (about 3.8cm) deep, and the cooker should be less than half full of oil. Heat oil to 375°F (190°C), using a thermometer to monitor temperature. Dip oysters in batter, drain, then slip them into hot oil. Cook until brown, two to three minutes.

Steaming

Place 1/4-inch (0.635cm) water or beer (seasoning optional) in the bottom of a large pan. Add scrubbed live oysters, flat side up. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until shells open (six to eight minutes). Throw away oysters that don’t open. Serve oysters in bowls with broth.

Buying and storing tips

Quality oysters are easy to recognize. Fresh oysters smell clean, like the ocean. The shells of live oysters are tightly sealed.

Refrigerate live oysters on a platter or cookie sheet, flat side up, covered with a damp towel. Although they should be cooked as soon as possible, they will keep this way for up to a week. Oysters should not be stored in water or in an airtight container as these methods will kill them.

Refrigerate shucked oysters and eat them the same day they are purchased.

Varieties

Atlantic oysters, grown along the Atlantic Coast from Nova Scotia to Florida, are small, and have a relatively smooth shell and a mild taste. The Pacific oyster, a briny-tasting delicacy introduced from Japan in the 1920s, ranges in size from the tiny Kumamoto oyster to the large, heavy-shelled common Pacific oyster. Olympia oysters are a rare, slow-growing species native to the Pacific Coast. Flat oysters, natives of Europe, are grown in cold waters on both coasts of the United States. They have an intense yet delicate taste. Oysters get their specific taste from the areas where they are grown, and they are often sold under these place names. Oysters can be bought live in the shell, shucked, fresh or previously frozen, or smoked.

Nutrition Highlights

Oysters (raw), 6 medium
Calories: 57
Protein: 5.9g
Carbohydrate: 3.3g
Total Fat: 2.1g
Fiber: 0.0g
*Excellent source of: Zinc (76mcg), and Vitamin B12 (16.3mcg)

*Foods that are an “excellent source” of a particular nutrient provide 20% or more of the Recommended Daily Value. Foods that are a “good source” of a particular nutrient provide between 10 and 20% of the Recommended Daily Value.

Oysters are not a source of omega-3 fatty acids.

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