For being so small, oysters are a big source of stress when it comes to eating them in public. They're squishy, shelled, and slightly sensual, and those who frequent seafood spots often avoid them out of sheer etiquette ignorance.
"For beginners and maybe for all oyster eaters, be open-minded," encourages Sheila Lucero, executive chef of the Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar in Colorado. "I think for those that are not oyster eaters, there tends to be some intimidation when people hold their first oyster up in front of their mouth. There needs to be a level of open-mindedness that gets them to eat and enjoy that first oyster."
But getting to that level of comfort can be tough when you aren’t sure what to do with your food. While you should always taste the unknown, being prepared never hurt either. Here are some tips for enjoying oysters the proper way:
Think About Your Tastes
You know what you like best when it comes to taste. Do you like acid? Sweetness? Minerality? Decoding oyster types is the first step to enjoying them. An oyster’s flavor, appearance, and quality varies depending upon the conditions of the environment.
"Think of the five species of oysters cultivated commercially in North America as you do wine grapes," suggests chef Lucero. "This can help a server or fishmonger determine which kind to recommend."
A Little Bit of Lemon
To complement the natural flavors in the regional oysters, a little squeeze of lemon can go a long way. "It enhances an oyster’s natural sweetness," explains Lucero. "It contrasts the natural fats and oils, and complements the saltiness."
There Are No Limits
"Slurp it, chew it, relax, and enjoy the fresh ocean like flavor from where that oyster came from. Repeat," instructs Lucero.
Because they are so versatile, oysters can handle being prepared in a multitude of ways, like boiled, baked, or fried. However, Lucero just suggests trying them naked to get a sense of what type of oyster you enjoy most.
Leave the Liquor
Though it may be tempting to expunge all seemingly excess fluids for the sake of avoiding slurping, Lucero begs you to resist.
" When picking up the raw oyster on the half-shell, be careful not to pour out the liquor," she warns. "The liquor is the liquid sitting in the shell with the oyster. It is an essential complement to the flavor of the oyster."