Oysters offer up a range of flavors depending on their origin, water temperature, and type of food passing through their systems.
The taste of an oyster is heavily influenced by its environment. As a mollusk, it is also a sieve for water and nutrients – the type and temperature of water and available food will make it salty, sweet, fresh, firm, or tender.
Oyster varieties are often named according to the area from which they are harvested. Wild and cultured oysters are usually available in most regions.
Atlantic (Eastern) oysters – Species include Blue Point, Malpeque, , Pugwash, Pemequid, Chesapeake Bay, Cotuit, Chincoteague, Patuxent, Breton Sound, .
Pacific (Japanese) oysters – Includes Kumamoto, Samish Bay, Malaspina, Steamboats, Royal Myagi, Skookum, Tomales Bay, Totten, Mad River, Golden Mantle, Penn Cove.
– Single species found on the , and related to the flat oyster.
Portuguese – Single species that originated in .
Flat oysters – Also known as European or Belons. Includes Merennes, Galway, Whitstable, Helford, .
Canned, dried, frozen, and smoked varieties are also readily available.
Select fresh oysters that have been harvested within four days of sale. Closed shells indicate the oyster is alive. If slightly open it should snap shut with tapped. When shucked, the oysters are bagged in their own clear juice, or liquor.
Refrigerate fresh oysters – deep-sided shell down - in a bowl covered with a wet towel. They can be frozen for up to three months. Cooked oysters do not freeze very well as they become rubbery when thawed.
Keep shucked oysters in a bowl of their own liquid for no longer than two days. Canned oysters, once opened, should also be used within two days.
• Scrub shells before shucking.
• Always use a dull knife – or a clam knife – to open oysters. Cover palm of hand with a thick towel for safety.
• All raw foods are susceptible to bacteria. Oysters are no exception; cook thoroughly for greatest safety.
• Steaming or grilling will cause the oysters to die