Martha Stewart's Etiquette Tip For Dealing With Empty Oyster Shells

Given their unique texture and briny flavor, oysters can certainly be considered an acquired taste. Once one has acquired it, however, the beautiful bivalves are hard to resist. Whether eaten raw with a crisp martini at happy hour or enjoyed battered and deep fried in a po' boy sandwich, the saltwater shellfish are a succulent bite worth snacking on.

Though there are many ways to eat oysters, you may be partial to enjoying them raw and on the half-shell. Served chilled and cupped in its own natural vessel, the slippery seafood is perfectly presented and makes for a sophisticated appetizer before a meal. But, given their tricky nature, and the fact that they're typically served to be shared, oysters come with their own set of etiquette rules.

And while you may be aware of the proper way to eat the mollusk — gently slurped straight out of the shell — you may run into trouble when it comes to those empty shells. Luckily, you can turn to Martha Stewart for all your oyster etiquette tips. As she shared in a TikTok video, one should always flip their empty oyster shell over when returning it to the plate or platter. Not only does it look a bit nicer, and proves more polite in the presence of dining companions, but it's also an easy way to signal to your server that you're done with the course. It can also prevent someone else from mistakenly grabbing a spent shell.

Properly enjoying oysters on the half shell

Beyond turning the shells over once you're done, there are a few other common mistakes diners make when it comes to eating oysters, from asking for a fork to forgetting to chew the meat. As far as which accouterments to use when dining, the celebrity cook and hostess with the most-est has you covered there as well.

In her video, Stewart recommends adding a light spritz of lemon juice to the shellfish before slurping. In addition to giving the bite a more well-rounded and brighter taste, lemon juice is also a natural disinfectant, and, as this study from the Journal of Clinical and Health Sciences indicates, it can help kill some lingering bacteria on the oyster — a useful tip when it comes to consuming raw seafood.

If you're hoping to add a bit more flavor to your slurp, Stewart notes that you can also pair the lemon juice with a small spoonful of cocktail sauce. Indeed, both are usually served alongside a platter of oysters on the half shell, as is mignonette, a sauce made from a blend of vinegar and shallots. Whatever your preference, the acidity in each of the condiments will help neutralize some of the oysters' saltiness while providing a deliciously zesty tang. Nevertheless, you'll want to keep Stewart's advice in mind and keep sauces only to a dash, lest you risk drowning out the distinctive flavor of the delicacy, or, depending on the company, aphrodisiac.