How do I Barbecue Oysters in the Shell?


Barbecued oysters make a simple and succulent appetizer with any meal, though they are particularly tasty outside on a grill during warm months. Barbecuing oysters is easy, though they require some prep and caution. Many oyster aficionados eat grilled oysters with some kind of simple sauce, such as a hot sauce or melted butter.

Dead or Alive

  • Suppliers are required by law to sell oysters alive. Dead oysters often contain high levels of toxins and bacteria; throw away any oysters that are dead. Live oysters clamp their shells firmly shut, while dead oysters have open, loose or cracked shells.


  • The barbecue should be hot before grilling, and you can simply place the oysters on the grill (you may want to wash the shells first, however), close the cover and wait about 10 minutes. Most people barbecue oysters with the cup side down, though cookbook publisher Jay Harlow swears by the cup-side-up method, which drains the hot oyster juice out of the shell. Regardless, you'll know that the oysters are ready when a few of them have started opening their shells.

Opening the Shell

  • To eat an oyster, you first have to open its shell, which can be difficult even after you've grilled it. To open the shell, you need a paring knife and a very thick glove or mitt. Place the oyster in one hand, covered by the very thick mitt or glove, and pry the oyster open using the knife. Shells can be flaky or slippery, or crack while you try to open them, causing the knife to slip.


  • You can pop the oyster right from the shell into your mouth, or present the grilled oysters formally. Many oyster lovers use bottled sauces, or prepare their own (such as garlic butter dips) and dip the oysters in a sauce before consuming. Consider serving the grilled oysters on the half shell, with sauce and forks on the side.

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