Skip to content

Oyster 101: The World is Your Oyster

Oyster 101: The World is Your Oyster

Auli Cinantya
15 May 2023


Learn how to choose, shuck, and pair oysters with this comprehensive guide - the ultimate resource for oyster lovers.


With their cold, briny essence and the refreshing aroma of the salty sea air, oysters are an excellent hors d’oeuvre when enjoyed with a chilled beer, crisp white wine, or champagne.

Whether enjoyed raw on the half-shell with a side of mignonette sauce or grilled, oysters are a beloved delicacy worldwide, often regarded as one of the ultimate luxury foods, alongside caviar, foie gras, and champagne.

For those who have visited an oyster bar, enjoying these slippery shellfish often involves an intimate and interactive experience with the food.

Ultimate Guide for Oyster

Know Your Oyster

Oysters come in diverse shapes, sizes, and colors and can be found in freshwater or saltwater environments. From the diminutive and tangy Kumamoto oyster to the colossal Pacific oyster, numerous varieties are available in the market. Although all types of oysters are rich in nutrients, some are more sought-after than others. Certain varieties are commonly enjoyed cooked or raw, while some are considered delicacies in specific regions.

Similar to other seafood, oysters should not possess an overpowering fishy taste. Instead, they exhibit a subtle fish flavor that mimics the ocean, with mineral undertones that vary based on the type. Although raw oysters are generally mild in flavor, they are typically served with lemon or sauce to enhance their taste.

Certain oyster varieties are exclusively indigenous to the Asian Pacific region, particularly Japan and Australia. Each oyster’s distinct taste and texture are determined by its location, growth methods, harvesting time, and other environmental elements. Different species and water conditions yield distinct flavors. Factors like the environment and age also influence the texture of oysters.

Pacific oysters are the most prevalent species, accounting for an estimated 75% of the global market. While Pacific and Kumamoto oysters originated in Japan, they are frequently grown in California and Washington and possess ruffled shells. Kumamotos, ideal for first-timers, are known for having the lightest, sweetest flavor.

How To Shuck an Oyster

The primary purpose of shucking oysters is to consume them raw. For this purpose, acquiring fresh, lively, and high-quality oysters is crucial. In addition to the oysters themselves, you will require a short knife or another thin-edged tool, a towel to hold the oyster, and a flat surface to work on. A genuine oyster knife is excellent since it has a guard around the blade to prevent your hand from slipping.

Place the oyster belly-side down on a folded towel. Take a look at the oyster. In most cases, oysters have a cupped side and a flatter side. Hold the oyster with the flatter side facing upward, and the cupped side will retain the oyster and its juice while shucking.

Now, search for the hinge, which is the point where the shells are joined more firmly than just by the oyster’s muscle. It’s usually easier to insert the knife near or at the hinge.

Having identified the hinge’s location will now prove helpful. Whether you inserted the knife near or at the hinge, put it into the hinge and “pop” it open by twisting the blade.

After successfully popping open the hinge, slide the knife between the shells while keeping it at the bottom of the top shell. You have now separated the two shells that contain the oyster. Remove the top shell, and enjoy the oyster. It is best to serve shucked oysters immediately. During the serving, you can keep the oysters cold by serving on a tray of crushed ice.

Best Way to Eat an Oyster

The adaptable nature of oysters makes them suitable for various delicious preparations. Oysters have more versatility than commonly assumed. Although they are famously enjoyed raw with a hint of lemon, they can also be grilled, fried, added to creamy chowders, and more.

Traditionally, oysters are a hand-held snack, consumed raw and fresh straight from the shell. They are eaten using no utensils or plates; you must place your mouth up to the shell and slurp away. 

There are numerous ways to consume oysters, including fresh, deep-fried, stewed, steamed, and broiled, also known as Rockefeller.

Best Oyster Pairing

Oysters have a unique taste that varies depending on where they come from, much like wine. Finding the right pairing can create an exceptional dining experience, bringing out the best in the oysters and the drink.

A chilled glass of white wine is a classic choice when pairing wine with oysters. We recommend trying a Chablis made from Chardonnay grapes for an excellent match.

If you’re looking to expand your horizons and discover new oyster and drink pairings, you can check these selections of drinks: 

  1. Champagne: The crisp, refreshing bubbles of champagne complement the saltiness of oysters perfectly.
  2. Muscadet: A dry, light-bodied white wine from France’s Loire Valley with a mineral character matching the oyster’s flavor.
  3. Sauvignon Blanc: This white wine’s bright acidity and citrus notes cut through the richness of oysters.
  4. Sancerre: Another white wine from the Loire Valley, Sancerre’s herbaceous notes complement the briny flavors of oysters.
  5. Gin Martini: The botanical gin notes complement oysters’ brininess, while the dry vermouth adds a subtle complexity to the cocktail.
  6. Bloody Mary: The bold flavors of this spicy tomato-based cocktail can stand up to the intense flavors of oysters.
  7. Vodka Gimlet: A refreshing vodka and lime cocktail that cuts through the richness of oysters.
  8. Oyster Stout: This dark, rich beer is brewed with oysters, making it a natural pairing for the mollusk.

Best Local Oyster in Indonesia

High-quality oysters are often associated with some coastal regions in Europe and Australia. Although oysters are still relatively rare in Indonesian cuisine, as a maritime country, Indonesia also produces oysters that can compete with the quality of imported oysters.

Pacific oysters or Crassostrea Gigas can be found in Sumatra, Lombok, Bali, and Lampung waters. Pacific oysters from Sumatra have a slightly thicker and relatively sweeter meat texture.

Fresh and high-quality oysters are also available from Bitung and the Kepulauan Seribu.

More From Features, Food

Sign-up for our bi-weekly Eatspeditions newsletter.

Food news, restaurant offers and exciting food events straight to your inbox.