Raw Oysters 101

All you need to know about raw oysters
The Ins and Outs of Oysters

Cyril Renaud of Bar Breton talks shucking oysters, varieties, and the perfect sauces


Oysters are a delicious and refreshing delicacy that can be enjoyed at any time of the year, yet many hesitate when ordering oysters off a menu. Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know when enjoying the salty bivalves.

What kind of oysters are there?

There are many types of oysters, but these are the five main types of oysters that are found in the United States.

Olympia: A smaller oyster with a full-bodied flavor that’s used for appetizers.

Pacific: Much larger than Olympia oysters, these oysters vary by region and have a fresh and sweet taste.

Belons: These are European oysters that are large and have a saltier flavor.

Kumamoto: The mild-sweet taste of this smaller breed of oysters makes them a safe pick for raw oyster first-timers.

Easterns: These are slightly larger then Pacific Oysters and have a crisp, sweet flavor.

Along with the different types it’s important to know the difference between East Coast oysters, which are briny and salty, and West Coast oysters, which are sweeter to taste.

How do I eat them?

Raw oysters usually come with a few condiments that enhance and add flavor, such as vinegar, horseradish, cocktail sauce, and lemon. Season your oyster based on your own personal preference.

There is no right way to eat an oyster, but one way is by using the tiny fork that is usually provided and swirling the oyster inside the liquid of the half-shell just before slurping down the oyster. 

Although some insist on simply swallowing their oysters, chewing the oyster allows you to taste the underrated sweetness of this seafood.

What type of alcohol pairs well with these raw babies? Champagne is a perfect match for fresh oysters because their soft salty-sweet qualities bring out the fruitiness of the drink. If you do not like champagne, choose a dry wine that pairs well with the squeezed lemon.

How do I know what kind of oyster I’m getting?

Knowing if you were served a quality oyster is not a straightforward task — yet there are some basic clues. You should see lots of sea water and the meat should be opaque. The oysters should be without smell, and the taste should not be too salty.

Now that you’ve mastered the art of eating oysters, you are definitely equipped to get out there and place your order.