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Updated on October 10, 2014

Buying, Cooking and Eating Oysters

This page offers oyster information including recipes, how to shuck, nutrition and diet statistics, conservation, and aquaculture (oyster farming).

Also featured are online gourmet oysters, steamers, knives and related products, oyster t shirts, gifts, and more.

Oysters are prized worldwide for their delicate flavor and the pearls they produce. Eaten raw on the half shell, steamed, single fried, in stew, stuffing or any number of other dishes, oysters are among the favorite seafood dishes.

Oysters are a good source of Protein, Vitamin C, Thiamin, Niacin, Magnesium, and Phosphorus. They also contain Vitamin B12, Iron, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, and Selenium. Medium sized oysters contain around 10 calories per piece, before cooking.

Oysters grow in coastal areas and are an important part of the ecosystem. In many parts of the world, wild oysters are harvested for food.

These popular shellfish are also suited for aquaculture and are grown on oyster farms for food, pearls or other uses.

Tips on Buying Oysters

Oysters are sold in most parts of the world, available in a variety of forms, depending on location, season and availability. Seafood markets and specialty shops sometimes offer oysters live in the shell, either wild caught or farm raised.

Oysters in the shell are sold by the piece, dozen, peck (1/4 bushel) or bushel. Sizes vary with local custom. In many areas, live oysters in the shell are classified as "small select", "medium select" or "large select".

Oysters are also sold freshly shucked, in jars or plastic containers. In North America, shucked oysters are typically sold by the pint or gallon. Other forms of oyster products include individual quick frozen (IFQ) oysters, canned smoked oysters and pre-cooked meals such as single fried or canned chowders, stews and soups.

Shucked Oyster Grades

The largest shucked oysters are called "counts", followed by "extra selects", "selects" and "standards".

Counts - not more than 160 oysters per gallon

Extra Selects - 161 to 210 per gallon

Selects - 210 to 300 per gallon

Standards - 300 to 500 per gallon

How to Shuck Oysters

The process of removing oysters from the shell is called "shucking". To shuck fresh oysters, use the following procedure:

Step 1. Hold the oyster firmly in one hand, knife in the other. Slip the knife blade between the top and bottom shell right by the hinge on back.

Step 2. Run the knife the way around the oyster until you get to the other side.

Step 3. Using a twisting motion, pry the top and bottom shells apart. Hold the oyster level in order to not lose any of the liquor inside.

Step 4. Cut the oyster free from the shell by gently pushing the blade further into the oyster and move it back and forth so as to sever the adductor muscle. Be sure to keep the blade pressed up against the inner top surface of the upper oyster shell to avoid cutting the oyster meat itself. When muscle has been severed, the top shell will "give" a little.

Step 5. move the knife blade underneath the oyster meat and cut the adductor muscle where it is attached to the bottom shell.

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Oyster Recipes

Cajun Oyster Stew

1/2 each celery, diced

1/2 each red & green bell peppers, chopped

1/2 cup bacon bits, chopped

1 1/2 Tbsp. flour

1 1/2 quarts milk

1 1/2 cups cream

salt & pepper to taste

1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce

1 potato, diced

Fry bacon.

Simmer vegetables in bacon fat; when soft add flour and mix well.

Slowly add milk and cream while stirring

Simmer for 30 minutes.

Add oysters, cook about 2 minutes

Garnish with parsley or green onions

Atlantic, Eastern or Virginia Oysters

Atlantic oysters (Crassostrea Virginica) are also known as Eastern or Virginia oysters. Commercial harvests of these shellfish in areas such as the Chesapeake Bay. In the famous estuary, oyster harvesting has been carried out for over a century, reaching 4 million bushels annually in the 1920's and continuing at rates that often exceeded 1 million bushels until oyster populations crashed in the 1980's. Current oyster counts are said to be less than 1 percent of historical levels.

In addition to wild populations, small oyster aquaculture operations utilize areas of private property or leased beds where watermen maintain oyster bars. Also known as cultch planting, shells and rock are placed to enhance shellfish habitat in potentially productive shellfish areas.

Oysters, clams and other aquatic life are attracted to the cultch and colonize the material. These structures encourage new oysters to colonize and grow, replacing harvested stocks. More recent aquaculture techniques include the use of seeded oysters that are grown in cages or bags to protect the oysters from damage. These operations hold promise as oyster farmers have learned to grow millions of oysters from seed stock to market size within 12-24 months.

Atlantic oysters are prepared in many ways including raw on the half shell, single fried, oyster fritters, steamed oysters, oyster stuffing, oyster stew and other dishes .They are designated as the state shell of Virginia.

Oysters are very important in traditional American cuisine. They are commonly served at Thanksgiving and Christmas in stuffings, casseroles and other presentations

Chincoteague Oysters

Chincoteague Virginia is well known for its excellent quality oysters. The island is a maze of oyster bars and reefs, both natural and man made.

Oysters and Chincoteague have a long history, as the industry has thrived here since colonial times. Chincoteague was once a major producer of oysters, with the product being exported in tremendous numbers by sailing vessel, wagon, and rail. The oyster industry is still thriving and oysters are available locally and nationally.

More information about Chincoteague Island's history and oysters is available at the local Oyster and Maritime Museum on Maddox Blvd.

Oysters are prepared in many ways including single fried, oyster fritters, steamed oysters, oyster stuffing, oyster stew and even raw on the half shell.

Visitors wishing to enjoy oysters at home can buy oysters in the shell or shucked. Local markets carry fresh or cooked oysters and Chincoteague oysters are on the menu of almost every restaurant on the island.

Other island seafood includes lobsters, clams, crabs, scallops, fish and more.

European Flat Oysters

The European flat oyster is found along the western European coast from Norway to Morocco in the north-eastern Atlantic and in the whole Mediterranean Basin. Natural populations are also observed in eastern North America from Maine to Rhode Island, following intentional introductions in the 1940s and 1950s.

Oysters on the Half Shell

Oysters on the half shell are an extremely popular meal among seafood lovers. Oysters are served raw still in the shell and usually served with lemon wedges, cocktail sauce or melted butter. Some enthusiasts use a special oyster fork for eating these delicious shellfish while others simply slurp them up whole.

Oyster Feedback

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    • LeCordonDude profile image

      LeCordonDude 6 years ago

      Awesome Lens!

    • lychic profile image

      lychic 6 years ago

      I love raw oyster! Thanks for giving me the tip how to select them!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Great information on how to cut the oyster without spoiling it.

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 8 years ago from Canada

      Welcome to Culinary Favorites from A to Z Headquarters! Your well-done lens is being featured under 'O is for..'. and is blessed.

    • Sniff It Out profile image

      Sniff It Out 8 years ago

      Welcome to The Cooks Cafe group

    • tandemonimom lm profile image

      tandemonimom lm 9 years ago

      Yummy lens! Welcome to the Real Food, Real Living group!

    • hlkljgk profile image

      hlkljgk 9 years ago from Western Mass

      If you love oysters, and you ever get to Montreal, you must visit Maestro SVP restaurant, . Outstanding selection.

      Great lens - saw it on twitter. :)

    • profile image

      billyannecrews 9 years ago

      I love oysters! I love reading anything about them and eatting all of them! LOL!

      Thanks for the lens!

      Billy Anne Crews

    • M Schaut profile image

      Margaret Schaut 10 years ago from Detroit

      Who doesn't love oysters! I've lensrolled this one too!