Why It's Better To Smoke Oysters Off The Shell

Oysters are fun to eat... if you like shellfish that is. For people that don't mind the briny and mineral flavor that comes along with mollusks, oysters are highly enjoyable, you can top them ups with sauces, and they pair magnificently with Chablis, Champagne, or Pinot Grigio, and can be served with a variety of dishes like on pizza or pasta. 

The Food Republic says that, in the United States, Manhattan was originally one of the best places for oysters. Beds of shellfish covered the coastline and had been feeding the native Lenape tribe for generations before the Europeans colonized the land. It was during the 19th century when New York became the world's largest and best source of oysters and places known as oyster saloons were opened. As with many other vast and delicious natural food sources, the European Americans destroyed many of these oyster beds over time, but Americans' love of the shellfish lives on.

Raw isn't the only way to eat oysters. According to My Live Lobster, you can steam oysters to keep them extra juicy, scallop them, butter them, and eat them roasted, stewed, or grilled, but one of our favorite ways to cook oysters is through smoking. Smoked oysters take a long time (90min-2 hours) and cook at a low temperature, but they are worth the wait. A smoker will lend a multitude of nuanced savory flavors to the delicate oysters and you'll end up with a super satisfying meal.

Shuck the shell

If you happen to have a smoker, you should consider letting steaks and ribs take a back seat next time oysters are in peak season and try your hand at smoking seafood. But before you just throw your clean and fresh oysters onto the smoker, it is best to shuck them. Masterclass says that it is best to smoke-shelled oysters in a grill basket so that they not only cook faster but so that the whole oyster comes into contact with the smoke and takes on the flavor without the shell inhibiting the process. Save the clean oyster shells so you can use them for serving.

ZGrills claims that the best wood for smoking shellfish is Alder wood which won't overpower the delicate nature of the oyster while also giving it a bit of a succulent sweet-woodsy flavor. If you want oysters with a bit more of a smokey kick you can use a mix of hickory and oak wood instead but be sure to reduce the smoak time so they don't overwhelm the natural characteristics of the seafood. A Grill for all Seasons suggests that the best oysters to smoke are whole Wiley Petites (pulled from the Damariscotta River, Maine) and Beau Soleils oysters (from Prince Edward Island, Canada).