OystersThe World Is Your Oyster
Oysters — most people have very strong feelings one way or the other. You either love them or you hate them. Haters aside, the oyster has long been considered an aphrodisiac and because of that, they tend to show up on Valentine’s Day menus everywhere.

Oysters are fairly easy to prepare, once you figure out how to shuck them and keep your fingers. Here is a good guide for shucking. It’s everything that happens before the shucking that can be eye-opening.

For example, did you know that oysters have their own terroir? In the same way that a specific wine growing region will affect the flavor of wine, the regions where they grow will affect the flavor. This is why, when you see oysters on the menu, they will almost always have the harvest area included in the description.

There are five different types grown in the United States. The Eastern Oyster is the native oyster along the Eastern and Gulf coasts. They can found on menus under names like Chincoteague, Malpeque, Apalachicola, or Wellfleet. They tend to have a milder more salty flavor.

Pacific Oyster are, not surprisingly, the most prolific oyster species on the West Coast. They can be found under such possible names as Totten Inlet, Pickering Passage and Netarts Bay. They tend to have a more complex flavor profile that includes a more savory mineral flavor.

Kumamoto Oyster are another species found on the West Coast. They are smaller than the Pacific oyster and are unique in that they go by the species name rather than where they were harvested, though sometimes you may see the bay where they were harvested listed. The have a mild not too briny flavor which makes them a great “starter” oyster.

The European Flat Oyster is a species that was brought to the Atlantic from Northern France. Sometimes sold under the name Belon, they can be found on both the East and West coast and tend to have a slimmer shape than other oysters as well as a bold mineral flavor. It is a favorite among aficionados.

The Olympia Oyster is the only native oyster in the West. Similar to the European Flat Oyster, the Olympia is a tiny oyster that delivers big flavor.

Oysters are sold either in the shell or pre-shucked. If you are planning to eat the oysters raw you will want to get oysters that are still in the shell. If you are cooking the oysters, it can be worth it to get them shucked ahead of time. Keep oysters refrigerated, covered with a damp cloth. Because they need good air circulation, oysters should not be stored in a covered bowl, plastic bag, or airtight container. Even a bucket of sea water is a bad idea.

As with all seafood, oysters deteriorate every day they are out of the water and should be consumed as fresh as possible, ideally, on the same day of purchase. If you are planning to eat the oysters raw, having the freshest oysters you can is very important.

There is very little that you can’t do with oysters. They can be steamed or fried. They can also be baked (Oysters Rockefeller). Smoked oysters are fantastic—and some of the best come in cans from Europe. Oysters are great in stews or soups. They can even be pickled. The easiest way and maybe one of the most popular ways to have oysters is to throw them on the grill which also helps with getting them open.

There is plenty of debate, though, on how you should eat a fresh oyster. For some the oyster liquid inside is all you need. For others a nice mignonette sauce is the way to go or even some melted butter. For grilled oysters a little BBQ sauce can be a great accompaniment.

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