How To Perfectly Smoke Oysters On A Gas Grill

Oysters are one of those food items that seem impossibly fancy, which is funny when you consider that people most often eat them by slurping them raw right out of the shell (a process during which absolutely no one can look dignified). But while raw oysters on the half-shell may be their iconic form, it's not the only way to eat the little devils. Oysters can absolutely be cooked, too, whether deep fried, grilled in their shells, or even smoked.

But a lot of people don't have smokers for that specific purpose, so are they out of luck if they want smoked oysters? Nope, it turns out you can do it using a gas grill, too. You should know, though, that smoking oysters on a grill takes some finesse, like any other non-standard food preparation. If you do it wrong, the final product isn't going to turn out well at all. The key is to pay close attention to your wood chips and to cook low and slow.

Make sure to soak your wood chips

Compared to other preparations, the benefit of smoking oysters is how the delicate bivalve takes on a light smoky flavor that complements their natural briny taste rather than overpowers or clashes with it. The good news is doing it right isn't hard — as long as you follow the proper procedure, particularly with respect to your wood chips.

First, soak your wood chips in water for about an hour. Now, soaking wood chips may not be as beneficial as it's often thought because it tends to give off extra steam rather than smoke and keeps the ambient grill temperature lower (typically 200-250 F) — but in the case of oysters, these are good things. The extra moisture is good for keeping oysters from drying out during the smoking process, and unlike most smoked proteins (where you need at least 325 F), you want to smoke oysters at around 180-200 F.

Be sure to use milder wood like cherry; stronger ones like mesquite will wipe out the oysters' natural flavor, and those are all you'll taste. After they've soaked, transfer the chips to a smoker box (a small metal box with holes used to turn a grill into a smoker), or make your own using a tin foil pouch.

Employ the two-zone method for indirect heat

Your next step is to employ the two-zone method, where one side of the grill is lit, and the other is off (but still absorbing some radiant heat from the other side). This is also the best way to cook tri-tip steak, but it's also applicable here, and your oysters will never touch the hot side. You'll want to place the oysters on a grill mat or something similar to lay them directly on the grill without falling through.

Now, set your grill to 350 F and wait for the chips to start smoking. When they have, lay the oysters on the grill mat on the cold side, close the lid, and let them cook for about 50 minutes. Voila: smoked oysters.

Though the idea of smoking oysters may seem daunting, the actual process isn't tough. Honestly, the most challenging part is probably shucking the finicky little guys yourself. Try it sometime and enjoy a flavor you'll never get from a canned smoked oyster.