Biggest Oyster Mistakes

While reporting for a story published this week on Bon Appetit — How to Take Your Oyster Slurping to the Next Level — I interviewed several oyster experts. I asked them all the same question: what’s the biggest mistake people make when it comes to oysters?

Hog-Island-Oyster-Co-Shucking-San Francisco Oyster Bar-Ed Anderson Photo Credit

The answers were varied and strongly opinionated. In addition to the list of “Do’s and Don’ts” at the end of my Bon Appetit story, here are a few more common oyster mistakes you can easily avoid.

1. Ordering based on the name. Apparently, many people order solely based on “cute” or interesting names. Before you order that Naked Cowboy oyster, you might want to know something about it. Ask questions to order oysters that match your taste.

2. Thinking the same oyster, will always be the same. Once you’ve identified a type of oyster you like, you might expect it to be precisely the same on every slurp. This isn’t the case. Depending on season, weather, whether the oysters are spawning, all influence what reaches the plate.

Grand-Central-Oyster-23. Assuming oysters are best in the summer. Many people associate oysters with summer, as fresh seafood and a glass of rose is a lovely accompaniment to a summer’s day. Yet oysters are actually best during the winter months, when waters are coldest.

4. Pairing oysters with any white wine. If you want to really taste the oyster and learn to identify qualities that you like, don’t mask your taste buds with a heavy white wine. You want something clean and refreshing. Sparkling wines are a classic combo with oysters.

5. Covering oysters in cocktail sauce. Some of the experts I talked to actually used the word “cringe” when it comes to oysters and cocktail sauce. Some don’t serve it, unless expressly asked by the customer. Cocktail sauce covers up the flavor of the oyster, so if you want to really taste what you’re eating, skip it all together.

6. Dismissing oysters after one try. If tasting oysters is like tasting wine, think about how silly it would be to dismiss ever drinking wine again after you’ve had one bad glass. If your first oyster experience wasn’t a great one, give it another shot and ask your server for mild, smaller oysters to start.

7. Thinking oysters are a meal. Some people are disappointed when after slurping several oysters (and paying for each individual one) that the meal is only beginning. Chefs actually say that oysters whet your appetite for more, so be prepared for further cravings.

8. Being scared of shucking. One way to take the sting out of the price of oysters is to eat them at home. All you need is an oyster knife and a glove to protect your hand. Ask your fishmonger if one type is easier to open than another (this is often a significant difference). Once home, give yourself a few attempts to get the hang of it.

Photo Credits: 1. Photo Credit, Ed Anderson for Hog Island Oyster Co.  2. Photo Courtesy of Grand Central Oyster Bar. 

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