Expert oyster tips from Oyster House Brewing’s Chef Jay Seman

Photo by OysterHouse Brewing

Even though I’m a hardcore lover of mountain foods, I still sometimes want a little bit of the sea — and that’s typically in the form of food, like oysters. Speaking of seafood, it just so happens that today is National Oyster Day. Wondering how to best enjoy these mollusks? Read on for professional pointers from Chef Jay Seman of Oyster House Brewing Company

Types of oysters 

Just as climate and soil affect the taste of wine, “an oyster’s flavor is impacted by the natural environment where it lives,” says Jay. That means much like the coasts influenced + dictated styles of hip hop in the 90s, the East + West coasts can produce distinctly different flavor profiles due to factors like nutrients in the water + currents. Some East Coast oysters may taste saltier than those from the West because the Atlantic Ocean has a higher salinity than the Pacific. Jay’s advice? “Sample different oyster varieties to see which you like best.” ProTip: you can find a variety of oysters from both US + Canadian coasts at Oyster House. 

The best way to eat an oyster

While fried oysters are fab, Jay says, “Raw is the best way to fully appreciate the oyster’s taste, because every oyster tastes slightly different.” Fresh oysters on the half shell are often served with several condiments, including mignonette (typically made from minced shallots, cracked pepper, and vinegar), horseradish, cocktail sauce, and lemon. For a touch of heat, add some hot sauce. And please don’t make the mistake of simply slurping them down. “Take the time to chew,” he says, otherwise, “you are missing out on half the flavor experience.”

Ways to cook oysters 

DYK you can grill oysters? Jay recommends topping them with garlic, butter, and parmesan cheese. ProTip: Keep the abductor muscle attached when grilling so the oyster doesn’t pop off. You can also steam them right in the shell. If you want to fry them, go for it, and add blue cheese, lemon zest, parsley, and red pepper alongside a homemade remoulade sauce to mimic one of the bestsellers at Oyster House. Fried oysters are also great for adding extra crunch to items like burgers + sandwiches

Enjoy oysters year-round

There’s an old saying that oysters should only be eaten in months containing the letter “r” — so Jay says nosh on them September through April. Because most oysters are now farmed in colder waters and there are better procedures to monitor for harmful bacteria, “It’s safe to eat raw oysters anytime,” says Jay. 

How to shuck oysters

Shucking is tough, Jay confirms, but doable. If you want to try it, start with a good oyster knife. Then, wrap a towel around the un-shucked oyster to protect it from the blade and to protect your hands from getting scratched by the shell. Be sure to keep the end unwrapped so you can wedge the knife into it to pry it open. If that doesn’t work, don’t sweat it. Stop by Oyster House and enjoy a dozen raw shucked mollusks via carryout or on their outdoor patio.