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How to Safely Store Fresh Oysters

Rifko Meier

Oysters are always a crowd-pleaser, whether you’re serving them to your family for lunch or to guests at a party. But unless you plan on eating your oysters right after you buy them, you’ll need to know how to store them properly. Here are some tips for keeping raw oysters fresh.

How to Store Raw Oysters

When picking up raw oysters locally, you can keep them fresh by placing them in a light, breathable bag and wrapping them with ice or gel packs. Make sure you keep them right-side up by checking that their larger shell is on the bottom. You can preserve oysters by covering their container with a damp towel and keeping them refrigerated. You can also place the oysters on ice in a perforated steam pan. Put a container below the pan to catch any water as it drips down from the melting ice. This will keep the oysters tasting fresh while preventing them from soaking in water.

Unpacking, Cleaning, and Storing Raw Oysters

  • Unpacking: The oysters are packed in a bag with ice packs around it. The knife and towel are packed separately. Take out the oysters and keep the gear separate and dry. You don’t need it yet.
  • Cleaning: Toss all the oysters in a sink with cold running water. Put on some cleaning gloves and start scrambling the oysters, so that the leftover sand and debris fall off. Do this for a couple of minutes or until you feel that they are nice and clean.
  • Storing: Take a plastic bin with a paper towel or kitchen towel on the bottom and transfer the oysters into the plastic bin. The extra water will fall out of the oysters onto the towel. Now take the plastic bag used to hold the towel and knives and use it to store the oysters in. Tie a knot in the bag after you put the oysters in. Store the plastic bag with the oysters in the refrigerator until you are ready to enjoy the oysters.

What’s the Difference Between Open and Closed Oysters?

Oysters should only be used when they are alive. Alive oysters are closed because the oyster keeps the bivalves closed to keep the ocean water in. The oyster keeps alive as long as there is ocean water inside. A dead oyster is open. The oyster can’t keep the bivalves closed because it’s dead.

What if I Think the Oyster Might Be Dead?

You toss it. When in doubt, throw it out!

Is There a Trick to Check Whether the Oysters Are Dead or Alive?

Yes, knocking two oysters together. If the sound is hollow, at least one of the oysters is dead. Check both oysters with another oyster to figure out if they’re alive. If the sound is like two rocks knocking together, both oysters are alive. Keep one to check the other oysters because now you know that one is alive. If there is a hollow sound, the other one must be dead. When you find dead oysters, toss them.

Storing Shucked Oysters

You shouldn’t freeze oysters while they’re in their shell or after they’ve been cooked. But you can freeze them after they’ve been shucked, which will help them last for up to three months. If you freeze cooked oysters, it will be hard to reproduce the texture they had when they were first grilled, fried, or baked. You’d be better off refrigerating cooked oysters, which will keep them fresh for up to three days.

How to Prepare Raw Oysters

Any oysters that you buy should already have clean shells, but washing them helps to get rid of any leftover debris. First, you should put them in a strainer, and then rinse them with cold water while rubbing them. Once the oysters are clean, you can shuck them with an oyster knife and a pair of gloves. Make sure you don’t spill too much of the clear, tasty ocean water inside of the oysters when you shuck them.

If you want to keep your oysters tasting their best, you’ll have to store them properly. At Oysters XO, we have online classes that will teach you how to shuck oysters, pair them with drinks, and identify the flavors of oysters from different regions. To buy a shucking knife or other equipment for preparing oysters at home, check out our online store for the tools you’ll need.

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