What Makes Australian Oysters Kilpatrick Unique?

Serving oysters on the half shell is popular all over the world in places where access to high-quality oysters is an option. Often, you'll find these on restaurant menus in simple form — raw or cooked, with lemon juice or another basic flavor to help accentuate the natural taste of the oysters. Oysters Kilpatrick takes the oyster experience to another level, where many other ingredients are layered on top of the oyster flavor. 

Oysters Kilpatrick (also often called Oysters Kirkpatrick) is a special way of preparing oysters on the half shell that is served as both an appetizer and a main dish. The fresh, salty flavors of a high-quality oyster are complemented by hearty fried bacon and tangy Worcestershire sauce, among other things. Today, you can find Oysters Kilpatrick in the Bay Area in California at select restaurants, but they are especially popular in Australia, where you're liable to find them on menus all over the country. 

The origins of Oysters Kilpatrick

One of the most popular theories about the origins of Oysters Kilpatrick is that the dish was created by Chef Ernest Arbogast of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, California. Chef Arbogast is also responsible for other well-known dishes, such as Chicken Tetrazzini, a rich pasta dish named for Italian opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini. He named his oyster creation after Colonel John C. Kirkpatrick, who was the manager of the hotel in the late 1800s and early 1900s. 

The dish became very popular, and variations in the name also emerged. Today, you'll find restaurant menus advertising either Oysters Kilpatrick or Oysters Kirkpatrick, but they are referring to the same dish. You will likely encounter a few variations in the ingredients list, depending on region and personal taste preference, but the same basic flavor profile is consistent.

How to make Australian Oysters Kilpatrick

The most important thing about any oyster dish is the quality of the oysters. Fresh oysters from clean waters will have a delightfully briny and fresh taste that is impossible to replicate in the kitchen. For a baseline take on Australian Oysters Kilpatrick, you will need fresh oysters, Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, butter, and bacon. Most Australian versions of this recipe include Tabasco for a zesty kick. Other common variations may call for things like ketchup, barbecue sauce, liquid smoke, or parmesan cheese for the top. 

First, clean and shuck your oysters. Fry a couple of pieces of bacon in a pan until it's on the crispier side, then cool and crumble. The pieces can be quite small — they need to fit on an oyster. On low heat in a small saucepan, mix together whatever liquid ingredients you've decided to add to your sauce. Once they are gently heated and mixed, remove them from the heat.

Set your oven to broil, and prepare a sheet pan with aluminum foil. You may have to bunch up the foil to prop up the oyster shells so they don't spill. Arrange the oysters, then top them with sauce and bacon. Broil them for barely a minute — you don't want to overcook them, as oysters can quickly lose flavor when cooked for too long. Serve with a lemon wedge or a green garnish, and enjoy!