How to Steam Oysters at Home

How to Steam Oysters at Home (Image: moomusician/iStock/GettyImages)

Plump, briny oysters, a staple at raw seafood bars, are low in calories and packed with nutrients. If you prefer them cooked, steaming them at home only takes a few moments. Once they're steamed, serve them with butter or a flavor-packed sauce.

How to Make Steamed Oysters

Scrub the oysters under cold running water with a stiff brush. Bring water to boil in the bottom of a steamer and put the steamer basket in place over the water. If you don't have a steamer, you can improvise one with a pot and a metal colander or collapsible vegetable steamer. The colander should fit in the pot without touching the water.

Place the scrubbed oysters in the steamer basket, rounded side down so they cook in their own liquid. Work in small batches that fit comfortably in the basket. Cover and steam for four to nine minutes depending on their size or until the oysters open.

Insert the tip of a strong knife into the hinge of the oyster shell, twist it to loosen the hinge and then run the knife between the top and bottom shells to release the muscle on the top of the oyster. Remove the top shell. Run the knife under the oyster to remove the bottom muscle.

Oyster Accompaniments

  • Drizzle butter over the oyster meat.

  • For an easy cocktail sauce, combine ketchup with prepared horseradish.

  • To make mignonette, add minced shallot, sugar and fresh ground pepper to rice wine vinegar.

  • Use a vinegar-based hot sauce like Tabasco and/or fresh-squeezed lemon juice.

Oyster Recipes

Oyster stew is a simple preparation of oysters and milk or heavy cream. Poach raw, shucked oysters in butter. In a separate pan, gently heat milk or cream seasoned with salt, pepper and a couple of dashes of hot sauce without boiling. Add the warm milk to the oysters and garnish with parsley or chives.

Antoine's Restaurant in New Orleans has guarded its oysters Rockefeller recipe since the 19th century. Oysters are topped with a combination of cooked spinach, onion, parsley, bread crumbs, seasonings and anise liqueur and then baked in the half shell. Oyster dressing, stuffed into a Thanksgiving turkey, is usually made with corn bread in the South. You can substitute bread cubes or packaged dressing mix if you prefer.

The original po' boy, a hearty sandwich stuffed with fried seafood and served with lettuce, tomato, remoulade sauce, pickles and hot sauce, was created to feed striking transit workers in 1929. Seasoned oysters are dipped in buttermilk and then dredged in cornmeal before being deep fried.

Other Cooking Methods for Oysters

Steaming may be the best way to cook oysters at home if you're not a fan of raw bivalves, but they can also be roasted. Scrub the oysters under cold running water with a stiff brush. Spread rock salt evenly across the bottom of a roasting pan and nestle the oysters, rounded-side down, in the salt. Bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes or until the oysters open.

To make grilled oysters, heat the grill to medium high. Place scrubbed oysters, rounded-side down, on the grill grate and close the cover. The oysters should begin to open after two minutes. Release the meat from the shell and serve with melted herbed butter, lemon wedges and hot sauce.

Fresh Oysters vs. Shucked Oysters

Fresh oysters are alive when you buy them. The shells should be closed. If you tap the shell of an open oyster and it doesn't close, the oyster is dead and should be discarded.

Shucked oysters are available in the seafood case at your supermarket. They're usually packaged in their own liquor in plastic tubs or in jars and are ready to use. Some recipes use the liquor as well as the oysters.

How to Store Oysters

Store uncooked oysters in the fridge. Transfer them to a container with ventilation, like a colander, and cover it loosely with a damp towel. Don't store oysters in fresh water because it will kill them. Make sure that liquid from the oysters doesn't come in contact with other foods in the refrigerator.

When stored properly, fresh oysters will keep in the fridge for up to a week. Once cooked, you can store oysters in the refrigerator for up to five days. Freezing is not recommended, as the quality of the cooked oysters may deteriorate.

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