Oysters are strange creatures, with their hard, rocky shell and shiny white interior. Oysters live in salt water. They are often eaten raw, or with lemon or a vinaigrette. We’re gonna do the same when grilling them. They’re not my favorite when raw, but cooked on a grill makes it a different matter.
- Oysters are easy to cook, just follow these steps.
Check for freshness
- If they’re slightly open, just tap on them (like with mussels). If they’re alive, they’ll clam up. If not, throw them away. Feel the weight of the oyster in your hand, they shouldn’t feel light, as a fresh oyster stores some water in the shell. And finally, smell them. If there’s any odd/funky smell, throw them away directly. Oysters don’t smell.
- Opening oysters isn’t hard, but as with everything practice helps. You need an oyster knife to open oysters. They are short and sturdy, and not necessarily super sharp. A kitchen towel is real handy too. Opening an oyster is done in three steps:
- Try to poke the knife in between the bottom and top shell, either by the pointy end, or along the hinge (the slightly straighter edge of the shell). If you use a lot of force you’re doing it wrong. Try wiggling the knife and turn it sideways (like you rotate a screwdriver back and forth) to pry the lid open. But don’t pull it all the way open, until you’ve done the next step.
- Now keep the knife blad flat and move it back and forth just beneath the lid to sever the muscle from the lid. Be careful not to tear/ruin the oyster. Remove the lid and continue with step 3.
- With a clean blade (so you don’t add shell particles to the oyster), carefully cut of the oyster’s attachment to the bottom shell. We want the oyster to slide cleanly out of the bottom shell when eating.
- To add both acidity and flavor we’re using lime juice and chopped cilantro leaves. These are added just before cooking.
- Oysters cook real fast on the grill, as they’re very small. If you grill them for too long they become rubbery and chewy. By ‘too long’ I mean more than 5 minutes. We’re using an ordinary kettle grill, but a gas grill or pellet grill works just as well.
- Light the grill and build a pyramid of charcoal/briquettes in the middle. The oysters are placed in a ring around the outer edge of the charcoal bed. This is done to cook the oysters, but avoid getting the shells too hot. If the shells are too hot you can’t hold them in your hand, plus the carryover heat will continue cooking the oysters after you remove them from the grill.
- Once the grill is hot, place a pinch of cilantro leaves in each oyster. Make sure you use only the leaves, not the stems. Then add a teaspoon of lime juice in each, and place the oysters around the outer edge of the grill. Put the lid back on, and wait 4-5 minutes. You can see they’re getting ready when there’s some foam and bubbling in the oysters’ juice.
- Remove them and let them cool of for 1-2 minutes, then dig in! Preferably with your favorite libation in one hand.