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Sometimes some of the simplest recipes are intimidating to prepare and serve – but no more! Follow this recipe for oysters on the half shell to serve up some delicious wonders of the ocean with mignonette sauce like a real pro!
Oysters on the half shell are fresh oysters that have been shucked open so that the muscle (the part you eat) is exposed. With fresh oysters in hand, the tips in this post, and a little practice, you'll be serving up an impressive tray of oysters on the half shell as an appetizer in no time! Add a little lemon and grated horseradish, and you have yourself an oceanic delicacy.
How to pick raw oysters
There are a couple of things to be mindful of when picking raw oysters:
- Get your oysters from somewhere you trust, no matter if that's your local grocer or a fish monger.
- Look for signs of freshness: if it doesn't look or smell right, be cautious.
- Ask when they were harvested and how long you can safely store them. Some oysters will come with a tag that indicates this information. Consider hanging onto this tag for reference.
- Make sure you pick up your oysters last on your shopping or to-do list and keep them cold and alive while you transport them home.
- Once you have them home, put the oysters on a baking sheet between two damp towels in the refrigerator.
Fresh water is a no-no for oysters. Make sure your oysters haven't been sitting in water before purchasing, and don't put them on ice before shucking and serving, as the melted fresh water is not good for them.
How to prepare oysters on the half shell
If you've ever watched any cooking show you'll know that shucking oysters is a real test. So don't worry if you don't get this on the first attempt. With some practice and following these steps, you'll get the hang of it!
- Clean your oysters: Give the oysters a scrub to remove any dirt, shell bits, etc. Don't let them sit in fresh water, just wash them under running cold water and set them aside once cleaned on a baking sheet between two damp towels.
- Prepare your serving tray: You will want to have a sizeable serving tray at the ready, filled with crushed ice. If you're going to serve with garnishes or a sauce, like horseradish, lemon wedges, and mignonette, place them on the tray now.
- Shucking the oysters: Hold an oyster, flat-side up, with a kitchen towel. Make sure to leave the end (hinged side) exposed. Place the tip of the oyster shucker between the two shells right where they hinge together. Press inward with firm pressure, wiggling your shucker a little, until it pops open. Keep the oyster level so that the liquid stays inside.
- Clean your oyster shucker: You don't want bits of shell in your oyster!
- Open the oyster shell: Use the shucker or oyster knife to open the shell by inserting it into the oyster shell and twisting it gently. You may need to do this at a few spots. Once the shell has been released, run the knife along the inner upper shell to release the muscle that attaches there.
- Detach the oyster from the shell: Remove the top shell completely and then run your shucker under the oyster to detach it from the shell.
- Place on ice and serve: Place the oyster on top of ice with the narrow end facing inward. Repeat until all the oysters are shucked and then serve right away.
How to serve oysters on the half shell
Here are some idea of how to serve oysters on the half shell:
- Serving tray: Raw oysters are typically served on a metal tray since it keeps things cold. Family or guests will pick up one oyster at a time for an appetizer, making a metal serving tray optimal to keep your oysters icy cold.
- Garnishes: For the classic, purist approach, you can serve with lemon wedges to add a squeeze of bright, fresh citrus. This will balance some of the salty flavor from the oysters. Alternatively, you can add fresh herbs, ginger, chili flakes, or lime juice – it all depends on the flavor you want to offer or the style of oysters you're intending to serve.
- Sauce: You can offer hot sauce, like Tabasco. You can also include a classic French mignonette which has vinegar, minced shallots, and pepper. Or try this champagne mignonette for a delicious twist! Adding sauces as options leaves it up to your guests to decide how much of the briny oyster they want to taste or disguise.
How to eat oysters on the half shell
Yes, you really do slurp them! Oysters on the half shell have the muscle (edible part) detached, so as you tilt your head back it should slide into your mouth. If it isn't completely detached you can use your fork to gently move it around and detach it. You can chew it a couple times before swallowing, or some people swallow it down the hatch immediately.
Can you eat raw oysters?
Yes, you can. Oysters on the half shell (what you see typically served at “buck a shuck” for example) are raw oysters.
What do oysters on the half shell taste like?
It depends on where your oysters come from, as they take on the flavors of their surrounding water. Some oysters have a saltier taste than others, some can taste earthy or coppery even.
How should I store shucked oysters?
It's best to consume them right away. If you do have leftover oysters that have been shucked already, you can store them in an airtight container and set your fridge settings to cold or place the shells on ice.
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
- 1 pinch EACH: sugar, salt, and pepper
Oysters on the Half Shell
- 12 oysters
- Crushed ice (enough to fill a serving tray)
- Grated horseradish (to serve)
- Lemon slices (to serve)
- Make the mignonette by mixing the ingredients together in a small bowl.2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon finely minced shallot, 1 pinch EACH: sugar, salt, and pepper
- Prep your serving plate by filling it with crushed ice. Place the mignonette in a bowl in the center and the horseradish in a second bowl.Crushed ice, Grated horseradish
- Hold an oyster, flat-side up, with a kitchen towel. Make sure to leave the end (hinged side) exposed. Place the tip of the oyster shucker between the two shells right where they hinge together. Press inward with firm pressure, wiggling your shucker a little, until it pops open. Keep the oyster level so that the liquid stays inside.12 oysters
- Clean your oyster shucker and then use it to open the shell by inserting it into the oyster shell and twisting it gently. You may need to do this at a few spots. Once the shell has been released, run the knife along the inner upper shell to release the muscle that attaches there. Remove the top shell completely and then run your shucker under the oyster to detach it from the shell.
- Place the oyster on top of the ice with the narrow end facing inward. Repeat until all the oysters are shucked then add a few lemon slices to the platter. Serve immediately.Lemon slices
We have thoroughly tested this recipe for accuracy. However, individual results may vary. See our full recipe disclosure here.