Oysters habitat is the open ocean where they can collect debris and dirt on their outer surface.
Whether you are going to buy oysters from a seafood market or the grocery shop.
You must be certain to clean them correctly and properly. To make them good for using either cooked or raw. By scrubbing the dirt off the outside shell.
As important as cleaning oysters, it is crucial to know how to select the raw and alive oysters.
And understand the proper ways of preserving it for later will allow you to enjoy this piece of heaven without any risks of poisoning.
Oysters are available in 5 main species, depending on their size and taste characteristics. But they have hundreds of different names.
Their names relate to the seawater locations in which they cultivate the oysters.
And according to the farmers advertising name. They differ in taste from salty to mild flavour and in sizes from small to large.
East Coast oysters tend to saltier, milder, and smaller in size. Oysters that grows on the west coast of North America are sweeter and creamier.
Let me take you in more details about the types.
What are the types of oysters?
You will find this type on the Gulf of Mexico or the east coast. The shell feels smoother than other species.
The most popular varieties are Malpeque, Blue Point, Wellfleet, Raspberry Point, and Cape Blue.
- Malpeque: it one of the most known oysters in North America. Canada at Prince Edward Island is an important location for cultivating oysters. They have many qualities like affordable and have a nice balance of saltiness and easy to eat.
- Bluepoint: they claim it is the most known in North America. They cultivate it off the coast of New York, new jersey, and Connecticut on the eastern coast. They have a firm texture and a nice saltiness balance.
- Apalachicola: this type is the highlighted species to be one of the world’s best oysters. They cultivate them around Apalachicola off Florida. They are fatty, plump and have some sweetness in taste. But they are becoming scarce. And there are some restrictions outlined for collecting them anymore as they affect the balance and conditions of saltwater environments.
Japanese or pacific oysters:
This type of origin is Japan. Yet, due to their ability of adaption, they are now found all over the world.
They are pointed shape. This type includes fannybay, Penn cover, Kusshi, and Golden Mantle.
- Fanny bay: these are the most delicious. They cultivate them in British Columbia. They have a smooth texture with the best finish.
- Penn cover: they cultivate them in northern Puget in the northwest. They have a distinctive crispness texture with a bold taste. Penn cove has won the award of the most beautiful oyster several times in a row.
This type is from the coasts of Japan. But due to its adaptation capability. They are starting to cultivate it now off California and Washington.
They have a slight texture with a creamy and delightful taste. But they were part of the pacific oyster varsities.
As they have their characteristics, they have a higher value than others.
EUROPEAN FLAT OYSTERS
This type cultivates in Washington state and farms in Maine. But they originated across Europe.
They may be not so recommended for new oyster eaters as they tend to have a metallic flavour. They are popular for their flat shell shape.
- Belon: they originate in the Brittany region off France’s coast. This type has a bold flavour and not recommended for people who try oysters for the first time. They have crunch and intense with super gamey taste.
This type originated on the pacific northwest. They have a metallic and sweet taste and small.
Yet, they are becoming very scarce because of the changes in the environment in their origin area.
Many of us have heard about the old rumour that says to consume oysters only in specific months that begins with R.
But some found that saying to be a myth. And that eating oysters around the year.
You must pay enough attention to how they farm the oysters? And monitoring their cultivated seawater for bacteria and balancing the temperature.
So farmed oysters are safe to consume all over the year without limiting that to certain months.
But if you are a wild oyster fan. I recommend following the rule of eating naturally cultivated in these months.
In all cases, if you enjoy wild oysters or prefer farmed oysters. You need to check these top tips before buying oysters from a seafood market or a grocery shop.
How to buy the right raw oysters?
Oysters are like fish. When buying fish, you look at the eyes to make sure they are fresh.
While oysters you check if they have tight closed shells. If the shell is not closed, tap on it, and if it closes, it is good to buy.
Always put in mind the geography specification of the oyster you are choosing. Those raised in waters far from the equator are often the best.
Including the coast of Canada and the pacific northwest. Yet, if you live in the south look for those originated from New Zealand or southern chile.
Oysters have a very delicate nature. So, it is crucial that you buy from a well reputable supplier that specializes in selling them.
It is better to buy them from a fish market or a seafood supplier. Avoiding supermarkets and mediators.
The key factor when purchasing oysters is to make the supplier open one Infront of you.
A good oyster should have a light mineral smell and full of clear seawater. If they have an unpleasant fishy odour, you must not consume it raw.
The beauty of oysters lay in its brine. When suppliers store oysters in tanks, they wash all the flavour and the brine off the oysters.
Putting it in tank water which can result in contaminating them. Yet, they make them good for a longer time but lose their quality and brilliant natural taste.
You must keep them alive until you shuck oysters to eat. As they will not be edible. As we mentioned before.
To check if they are good, try opening them if they closed again instantly then they are no good. Also cracked or broken shells are other signs that the oyster is dead.
Moreover, if they are good, they should feel heavy in your hand as it contains this brilliant seawater that maintains its briny and fantastic flavour.
How to clean your oysters?
Before you shuck your oysters and enjoy preparing them to eat, it is important to clean them very well.
Those cultivated in salted water in the bottom of the sea, full of mud and debris on their surface.
The cleaning process is a quite simple one. Suppose you have suitable equipment and understand the right sequence of the steps.
So, let me explain to you this process step by step.Required tool.
- fresh oysters
- Baking tray
- Toothbrush or steel wool
Step 1: Washing.
- Before shucking the raw oysters, you need to scrub down all the debris, sand, or mud off them very well. So, they do not sink up in them.
- First, begin by clearing the area around the kitchen sink. To make sure that nothing is contaminated during the scrubbing.
- Please put them in a colander inside the sink and open cold running water on them.
- Using a colander is necessary. To ensure that water will not result in killing the oysters.
Step 2: Scrubbing with a toothbrush.
- You want an aggressive tool for scrubbing. That you will not mind throwing afterward or making it a shellfish cleaning tool only like steel wool or a hard toothbrush.
- You can also use a tough towel, but the most efficient is a heavy-duty scouring pad.
- If you try regular dish sponges, you will find them too smooth to remove the dirt stuck on them.
Step 3: Cleaning around the hinge.
- Scrub them under the cold running water one by one. Paying more attention to the hinge part where you will insert the oyster knife to open them in half.
- Also, clean around the edges where the bottom and the top side of the shell meet.
- It is better to remove most sand and debris as possible, but they do not need to be spotless.
Step 4: Placing between wet towels
- After cleaning some, it is better to keep them on a baking tray. Place the oysters between two wet towels until you finish all of them.
- It is important to work as fast as possible, so they do not stay out of the fridge for a long time.
- I recommend that if you are cleaning a lot of oysters in a warm kitchen. It is better to divide them into small batches between separate towels.
- And clean each batch while the rest is in the fridge between two cold, wet towels.
Here is a video about cleaning them using another more advanced technique but the same concept.
Like any kind of fresh shellfish, it is better to eat oysters immediately.
Yet, if you want to store them, you can put the oysters in the refrigerator for a couple of days.
And if you are going to store them for longer, store them in the freezer. Freezing oysters can be very tricky but understanding the main rules of that is crucial.
As live oysters are very delicate, and if not handled in the proper way, they can go bad or die.
How can you store the oysters?
They taste perfect when you shuck them open in a half shell before you eat them immediately.
However, keeping them intact. That will make it easier to store them. And lessen the chance of going bad.
So do not shuck or wash them before storing them. Leaving the dirt and sand on the surface will help them keep their moisture and protect the meat.
How to store oysters in the refrigerator?
Step 1: Preparing the container.
- Get a bowl or a container with a removable lid or an open-top that you can store in the fridge. Putting them in a closed container will result in killing them.
- Pour some crushed ice into the bottom of the container. Then place them on the ice and be certain that you turn each side of the oyster facing down.
- To maintain their juices intact inside the shell. You may need to change the crushed ice regularly.
- When placing them in the fridge. It is like how the seafood supplier saves his fish and shellfish in the market.
Step 2: Storing.
- With a thin, clean kitchen towel and damp it in very cold water and remove any excess.
- Lay the wet towel on the top of the oysters. However, if you cannot spare a towel, you can use a damp newspaper.
- Avoiding any poisoning from freshwater as they grow in saltwater. So, submerging them within the water may result in posing them and cause their death.
Step 3: Adjust the fridge temperature.
- Adjust the temperature of your fridge to 2 and 4°C. Making sure that you do not place any meat above or under them. So, no juices drip down onto your shellfish.
- You must check on them once per day to check that the towel did not dry out or the crushed ice needs changing.
Step 4: Consuming.
- I recommend consuming them within a couple of days when storing them in the fridge. Yet, some types of oysters can last longer than that.
- Suppose the oysters came with an expiration date. Use them with the provided instruction and most storage dates.
- The more you keep them stored in the fridge, the higher risk of food poisoning.
Step 5: Prepare for shucking.
- Once you are ready to eat, place them out of the refrigerator and put them under cold water.
- Start opening them in a half shell and start checking for any signs that can say that they are no good.
- Or if their shells broke or damaged in any way. Or they began to smell fishy, then the oysters are no good, and you need to throw them right away.
A lot of live oyster fans have this question in mind. They wonder if they can freeze oysters. Well, of course, you can with a simple process.
Let me explain that process step by step with you.
How to freeze oysters?
Step 1: Rinse.
- Unlike storing oysters in the refrigerator. It would help if you rinsed out all the dirt and sand off them.
- Before storing them in the freezer, yet it would help if you kept them in their shells.
- As it helps preserve their taste and lessen any damage. Or prevents any bacteria from forming on the surface.
- However, if you do not have space in your freezer and cannot afford to place them intact.
- Then you can shuck oysters but keep their juices and liquor for later use.
Step 2: Place in a container.
- Please put them in a safe freezer bag or moisture-resistant container.
- However, if you are storing shucked ones, put them in a firm plastic box. Leaving less than 1 cm between them, so they do not suffer from freezer burns.
Step 3: Save the liquor.
- If you freeze shucked oysters, preserve the juices and liquors you removed into a freezer-safe container.
- And keep pouring it until you cover it entirely inside the liquid. You can add some water if you do not have enough liquor.
Step 4: Regular check ups.
- Regularly, check them. Be certain that you remove any that have damaged or cracked shells or pink and cloudy meat.
- If you stored them in the freezer, they could last up to 3 months. However, you may notice that the taste can degrade gradually.
Step 5: Defrosting.
- Before using your oysters, pull them out and put them in the refrigerator.
- Depending on the temperature, you adjusted your fridge. It can need a whole day to defrost.
- The advantage of this process is that it allows the oysters to last longer after defrosting. Which means you do not have to use them immediately.
- However, if you chose to defrost the oysters in freshwater, you must use them immediately, or they will go bad.
So, let us say you will freeze your oysters without the shell. Do you know the proper way to shuck oysters without ruining them?
We all know that shucking oysters may be an intimidating process.
But with the right knife and understanding the steps, it will be a straightforward one, and you are an expert in no time.
How to shuck oysters?
Put in mind that our main goal when opening oysters to store in the freezer. And to preserve the clear juices to use later when freezing.
You must also pay more attention that you do not get any chips off the shell into the opened oysters.
- Protective gloves
Step 1: Protect your hands.
- Put the protective glove on your non-dominant hand where you hold the oyster to prevent the shucking oyster’s knife from slipping.
- However, if you do not have a glove, you can use a clean kitchen towel to lean on the counter for more support. Hold the oyster knife with your dominant hand.
Step 2: Place the hinge.
- Check for the shell’s hinge, which is the meeting point between the top and the shell’s bottom.
- Then insert the oyster knife in the small scion between the top and bottom halves.
Step 3: Insert your shucking knife.
- Put the tip of your shucking oyster knife into the hinge and wiggle the blade in a rotating motion with your wrist back and forth.
- Try to apply enough pressure to open the oyster shell.
Step 4: Release the meat.
- After shucking your oyster, slide the blade between the flat side of the shell and the meat.
- Hold the oysters and slice the flat muscle part that is attaching the oyster to the outer shell.
- During loosening, the body tries to prevent any juices or liquors from spilling out. So, you do not end up losing that excellent taste of the meat.
Step 5: Keep the oysters cold.
- After finishing the shucking process, immediately place the shucked oyster’s meat on a crushed ice plate.
- To keep them cool and consume them within two hours maximum to avoid any spoilage or food poisoning.
Frequently asked questions about raw Oysters.
Is it risky to eat raw oysters?
For those who are trying oysters for the first time. It may be strange to start with raw ones while for fans, this is a unique experience.
Actually, most oysters’ lovers believe that the best way to at them is raw with their juices and salty flavour.
However, consuming them has been a high risk lately because of the chances of carrying a deadly virus called the vibrio virus.
This virus is highly concentrated in the salty seawater as the meat absorbs a lot of it.
So, when people eat any infected oysters, they can get vibriosis which can be deadly.
Even if you do not get the vibriosis, there is still the chance of food poisoning.
As not all shellfish served in restaurants must be fresh and may contain a lot of bacteria. Or may cause some allergic reaction if you have not tried it before.
Do we eat live oysters?
Of course, if you eat raw oysters. They are probably still alive. As dead ones can contain bacteria as well as in all cases will smell bad and taste awful.
That is the main reason they preserve it alive until they are ready to be served and eaten with some hot sauce.
However, the continuous argument around whether the shellfish is alive or dead before you put it in your mouth.
To assure you. Once the meat is cut from the shells, it technically dies, or your teeth and stomach acids will make sure that they are dead.