The Experts Guide On How to Grill Oysters

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Last Updated on June 26, 2021
Annabelle

A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.  

Annabelle is an experienced food writer and editor. She focuses on common sense, easy to replicate recipes formulated to help keep things fresh and exciting while fitting into her day to day life as a wife and mother.

how to grill oysters

Oysters are a delicacy that make a fantastic addition to any meal. They offer a light taste ideal as a starter while still being substantial enough for the main course. Many people love to add different sauces, and these shelled treasures also combine well with many types of bread.  

In the South, oyster roasts are a staple of long summer days and a great way to welcome fall and spring with family and friends

The crucial aspect of grilling oysters is to ensure thorough preparation and kill harmful bacteria. Fortunately, this is an easy task using a grill, allowing you to concentrate on adding your preferred flavors for a premium taste in every bite.

These expert tips can help you achieve excellent grilled oysters every time.

1. Why You Should Eat Oysters?

Oysters are an acquired taste. The fishy flavor can be overwhelming for those who prefer a milder taste. Slurping an oyster from a shell can be messy. However, oysters are a bountiful source of vitamins and minerals that contribute to a healthy, varied diet. There is plenty of protein, and oysters also contain vitamin D, iron, zinc, and other essential nutrients.

2. Preparing to Grill Oysters

There are two methods for preparing oysters for grilling. You can shuck them before cooking or leave them unshucked. Ultimately, the technique you choose comes down to personal preference, but both ways produce fantastic results.

Shucking Oysters Before Grilling

Shucking an oyster describes the process of opening the shell to reveal the inner meat. Oysters come covered by a hard surface, and it can be challenging to pry them open, but it’s worth the extra effort if you have the time. 

The first step is to rinse the oyster shell under cold water to remove any sand or debris. While you’re cleaning, this is an excellent time to check for any open surfaces. If you find an oyster shell with any gaps, it may not be fresh, and it’s safer to throw it away.

Before opening the shell, you can prevent it from slipping by placing it on a towel and using a second towel on top to hold it in place gently. Use a specialist oyster knife if you have one, but you can also use a vegetable knife if you don’t. You can identify the point at which the top shell and bottom shell parts meet because there is a slight indentation. 

Insert the tip of your knife into the hinge and apply light pressure to separate the top and bottom shells. Some shells part faster than others, and it’s important not to let the knife slip if you are working with a stubborn oyster

When the shells part, you’ll see the oyster, and you can gently pry it loose to make it easier to slurp. Keep the oyster liquor (the juices) in the shell because this provides a fresh sea flavor.

Benefits of Grilling Unshucked Or Shucked Oysters

Shucking oysters takes more time, and you could injure yourself if a knife slips during the process. Oysters stay fresh for approximately five to seven days after shucking, so unshucked oysters are a better choice if you’re unsure of when you’re going to grill the delicacy.

You can also grill unshucked oysters, so there is no need to open the shells if you’re short on time

However, shucked oysters taste fresher, and you may notice a stronger flavor if you open the shells immediately before grilling. Shucking oysters can also be satisfying as it is an unusual technique you don’t often get the chance to perform in the kitchen.

3. Grilling The Oysters

There are several crucial aspects when grilling oysters. Because they are delicate, they cook quickly, so it’s essential to monitor your oysters during grilling.

Oyster Grilling Temperature

When considering how to grill oysters, the most important factor is temperature control. When oysters overcook, they can dry out and burn, losing their delicious light and fresh flavor. An undercooked oyster has a rubbery texture that is chewy and doesn’t slide easily down your throat. 

It’s best to keep the grill at medium heat. While this is easier on a gas grill, you can find the right heat level on a charcoal grill using the dampers to control the fuel chamber’s oxygen flow. If you notice the shell popping, the temperature is too hot. 

A reliable way to ensure the oysters don’t get too hot is to grill over indirect heat. You can do this by heating one side of the grill and placing the oysters on the opposite side of the fuel source. Warm air still reaches the oysters, but not at as high a heat as if the shells were directly over the flames.

Oyster Grilling Safety

One of the top things to consider when learning how to grill oysters is safety. If you’re grilling unshucked oysters, ensure the shell hinge points in your direction. Although the shells shouldn’t pop if you have the heat at a medium level, it’s still possible they could open too quickly. When the shell hinge faces the chef, pieces of the exploding shell should go in the opposite direction. 

When grilling shucked oysters, there is reduced pressure inside the shell because it is open. These shells are less likely to shatter, but there are still juices inside that could splash and cause injury.

Always use tongs or oven mitts to move oysters because the shells and juices are hot.

Add Flavor During Grilling

After approximately five minutes of grilling unshucked oysters over medium heat, oyster shells should open slightly. To avoid contamination, use a clean knife to open the shells so you can add in tasty accompaniments that complement the natural flavors. If you have already shucked your oysters, they are already open, making it easy to add seasoning.

Garlic butter and hot sauce are traditional additions, but you can be creative and use any number of combinations. A spiced tequila butter adds a hot kick, while fennel fronds or leaves bring an extra freshness that is welcome on a warm day.

Because oysters come in individual shells, you can add different ingredients to each one, allowing you to grill a varied meal in as little as 20 minutes. After removing your oysters from the grill, you can pair them with bread to create a delicious and sumptuous dinner.

4. Grill Oysters All Year-Round

Because you can grill oysters shucked or unshucked, they are a quick and easy meal that is ideal for any time of year. A cool and refreshing oyster recipe is delightful on a warm summer’s day, while a spicy combination provides warmth on a cold winter’s evening.