Everything you need to know about Oysters

A good oyster has a fresh, briny flavor. The size and taste of oysters vary upon the location in which they grow. We're partial to oysters from the east coast and especially those from Massachusetts, among the best-tasting oysters in the world!

A well-earned reputation for romance

For centuries, people have eaten oysters as an aphrodisiac. Like other folklore, it has a basis in fact. New England oysters have an unusually high content of zinc, an element that affects energy and sexual potency, among other things. We like the adage, "Eat fish, live longer. Eat oysters, love longer."

There's more than one way to shuck an oyster

Removing oysters from their shells (shucking) is not difficult, but it does take practice. As you might expect, the fresher the oyster, the more difficult it is to open. One trick that works is to heat the oysters in a microwave for a few seconds, just long enough to heat their shells.

Or you could place the oysters in the freezer for about 5 minutes, which also lulls them into relaxing their muscles. Using a basic oyster knife is the best way to shuck oysters. And you should always protect your hands with rubber or cloth kitchen gloves because it's easy for the oyster knife to slip or for you to cut yourself on the shell.

How to shuck an oyster (the fast way)

You can shuck oysters two ways. The fastest way is to hold the oyster in one hand and open it with the other, but that takes practice. If you're a beginner, learn using a towel. Shield your hand with a kitchen towel, grasp the oyster so the curved part of its shell is facing towards the palm of your hand, and hold it down on the kitchen counter. (The towel will keep the oyster from slipping.)

To find the seam, look at the back of the oyster where the hinge is. Insert the knife in the hinge and wriggle the knife back and forth, prying up the shell to separate the top from the bottom shell.

If you're successful, the oyster shell will open a crack and you will be able to finish the process using your hand. Be sure to always hold the oyster level so that you don't lose its liquid. Next, run the knife along the top shell to release the oyster into the bottom half of the shell. Pull off the top shell and discard it. Release the oyster flesh with the knife.

Eat them raw, steamed, baked, or stuffed

Raw oysters, served on the half shell with cocktail or hot sauce and a lemon wedge, are the most popular preparation. We also find that Green Tabasco is a sensational accompaniment because it's pickled, hot flavor brings out the oysters' briny taste. If you prefer your oysters cooked, try scalloping, stuffing, or braising them in a stew.

From the "Legal Sea Foods Cookbook" by Roger Berkowitz and Jane Doerfer, illustrated by Edward Koren.

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