HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Trying to get over my fear of oysters.

Okay, really not a fear, but believe me when I say I have never tried them raw or cooked because they just look slimy and all the usual aversions people claim. Although I do like steam mussels, shrimp and other shellfish. AT this juncture in life I am trying to get over long standing aversions (not all, since some have real purpose, such as I will never eat pig's feet or cow's tongue. What is the best way to approach this???

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
    1. I loveeeeee oysters but I imagine they are not for everyone. You certainly shouldn't feel bad if you don't like them...for goodness sakes...I can't stand Okra so...you are in good company. slimy food freaks me out...believe me! lol!

      My suggestion? Try a jar of fresh, SMALL oysters simmered in some white wine and good chicken stock and a pinch or two of kosher salt...then when they are 'just done', plate them up and add a shot or two of green tobasco...soooooooooooo yummy! :)

      5 Replies
      1. re: Cheffy

        i agree to start small....i'd choose fresh over jarred, though, if you can. kumamotos are my favorite teeny oysters, and the ones i started my kids on (two out of three loooove oyster slurping with mom...). while i love them unadorned, you might go with a dab of cocktail sauce or mignonette the first couple times.

          1. re: Cheffy

            Me too, with a fresh crisp glass of Sancerre, or a Quincy if they have it but that is unlikely as it is hard to find!

          2. re: chez cherie

            I agree to start small, as I think the texture might be more of an issue than fears about taste. I used to fear oysters too, until one day I just decided to try one: and I've been hooked ever since! (be warned,they can be a pricey addiction!).

            I'd say just go to somewhere like Hog Island in the Ferry Building, order a nice white wine to loosen the inhibitions....order a half dozen kumamotos, and just try one! (and invite an oyster lover along in case you cant finish the other five. More likely, you will order another dozen! :-)

            1. re: susancinsf

              Yeah, whatever you do, don't eat the jarred stuff. I like oysters and I wouldn't eat them. If you like steamed mussels, you might try oyster chowder first. If eating raw, go small, as suggested, go to a place known for good prep like Hog Island and ... drink first as suggested to lower inhibitions.

              I personally wouldn't go with fried oysters. While that is my preferred method of eating them, I only like that prep in New Orleans or on the East Coast. West Coast oysters are too big and bland and usually fried oysters in this area are ugly, squishy horrid things ... remember I like oysters. Usually the fried versions are from a jar anyway and pretty tasteless. I do love BBQ'd Pacific Coast oysters and beleive that is the purpose God intended them for ... still ... start with oyster chowder.

        1. I applaud your courage.

          I would highly recommend a bowl of oyster stew at Hog Island in the Ferry Building. They serve a classic version of that sublime dish. A glass of white wine and you're set. I can't imagine you not liking it. It's the purist way to enjoy a cooked oyster. Then if you like the soup, order up a half-dozen on the half-shell and give the raw stuff a go.

          1. i would say as long as they are cooked
            raw is totally senseless considering that you JUST swallow them no chewing they are not in your mouth long enough to know what you just had

            6 Replies
            1. re: foodperv

              I, and all my friends who love oysters, chew before swallowing. How else are you to taste their wonderful brinyness? Oysters and I have been friends for many years....and I'm still here.

              1. re: Gio

                I had the same reaction last year when I posted here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/301883

                Seems that consuming oysters has strong cultural contexts as well as just plain different eating styles.

                1. re: E Eto

                  I just thought of something else. I've read somewhere that most foodbourne illness from raw seafood is attributed to raw oysters. And if most people just swallow them, it makes sense that they wouldn't know if they had a good or "bad" oyster until after it's ingested. I haven't had many, but it seems pretty easy to tell a bad oyster when you bite into it.

                  1. re: E Eto

                    there's a difference between a bad oyster(was a bacterial infestation( which you can tell from taste) and one that has a bacterial infestation (which you can't tell from the taste). This is why, IMO, it's important to eat cold water oysters if you're going to eat them raw(aside from the fact that they just taste better). even that won't be a surefire protection from problems, but they are a helluvalot safer than gulf oysters. anyway, the farther north you go the less likely you are to run into any of the harmful bacteria, and really likelier you are to get the true briny taste of the ocean and a sweet taste of oysterness. Welfleets are about the southernmost I like to eat raw. that's not to say I turn my nose up at a bushel of Afalachacolas, but I just don't eat them raw. they're wonderful in gumbo or bisque or fried in a po'boy or panee'd or in any of a number of terrific ways. Just not raw.

              2. re: foodperv

                I agree, if you are just going to swallow them, there is really no point in eating them. In fact, there is no point in eating anything that you are just going to swallow it (except maybe a vitamin or some advil). DEFINITELY chew them and enjoy the maturation of the process: salty at first and then sweet and delicious as it goes down your throat.

                1. re: foodperv

                  Not true... depends on the size. Some require a chew. Even small ones, I savour, I don't just swallow. There is nothing that compares with that beautiful flavour of ocean.

                2. I prefer the small oysters which will be coming into season. The vendor I buy them from has opened a jar and let me sample on before purchasing. They are very fresh and delicious.

                  You might like to start with oyster chowder. I make it just like a New England clam chowder. Here in south central Indiana fresh oysters are easier to come by and much less expensive than clams.

                  1. You know... There are sooo, sooo many things to eat in this world. Why would you want to force yourself to eat something you feel is, at least at this point in time, repulsive to you? I have friends that drown foods in hot sauce, mustard, ketchup, etc just so they can get them down. I have never understood that.
                    I would just say, eat the other 100 gazillion foods you already like and if, and when, you find your curiosity outweighs your adversion, you'll try some of these other foods.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Tay

                      I agree. Why force yourself to eat them. I was a server at this restaurant in Pismo Beach, all seafood of course, and the owner made me try an oyster. Can I just say that I hated it. The slimy texture, the taste of sand, just not worth it to me. First of all make sure you are not allergic to them. I would suggest just staying away from them. But if curiosity gets you then try it. If you don't like it you won't be eating them again.


                      1. re: Whitners

                        Why force? Because the OP might actually end up loving them.

                    2. oysters can be wonderful. a good pan roast is a smart way to start the experience. here's a link to the oyster bar's famous recipe:

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: steve h.

                        I like oysters but I've found pan roasts repulsive. There's something about the soft, awful texture. It is like the fried oysters in the SF Bay Area. They are too large and instead of a nice coating to oyster ratio, cooking just turns the oyster soft and flabby ... ick, ick, ick ick .... shudder thinking about it.

                        I'm not so thrilled about the local specialty either ... hangtown fry ... eggs and oysters ... so wrong ... its only the bacon that makes that tolerable.

                        I guess I need some texture to oysters and some methods take the texture away leaving the oyster almost as soft as mashed potatoes. BBQ leaves a firm texture. With raw oysters there is some texture and the briny taste of the sea. Long cooking of oyster stew give both ... a firm oyster in a briny broth. There is only one exception to this ... smoked oysters ... but then it is about the smoke flavor rather than the oyster.

                        1. re: rworange

                          love the pan roasts. in season, bluepoints, fried or raw, are the best.

                      2. If you like cooked mussels, you'll like good ol' Southern batter-fried oysters. I know this will get me kicked out of Chowhound circles, but I just can't face raw oysters (I tried one, and describing what I thought the experience was like would get me banned from this board) - so there's no shame in choosing a "path of least resistance."

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: wayne keyser

                          wayne was it like a nasty case of post nasal drip

                        2. Get a good bottle of champagne.
                          When you are half way through, help yourself to the oysters.

                          Any preparation will do, but preferably avoid strong sauces.

                          I prefer them raw. After a few decades of eating oysters, at quite a few different earthly parallels and meridians, never experienced any problems, so I guess statistical risks must be pretty low.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: RicRios

                            "Get a good bottle of champagne.
                            When you are half way through, help yourself to the oysters."

                            That's exactly what I was about to suggest! Though when I was new to oysters on the half-shell, I used to start with a bracing, icy vodka martini and then move from there to the oysters and Champagne.

                            Also, oysters are thought to be an aphrodisiac. Your choice of dining companion may make a difference in how you enjoy them. Definitely try them with someone who likes oysters already, (and in saying that, I am not being euphemistic!).

                            1. re: Mawrter

                              Another approach to oysters & booze I've been told is good....for those of you who prefer to "shoot" the oysters. Fill the bottom of the shell with your favorite vodka - chilled. Dollop some of the spicy cocktail sauce on top of the oyster, and shoot it all down. Resembles a bloody mary of sorts.

                          2. You might enjoy oysters cooked on the grill. Buy a few and lay them close to the coals with the deepest shell down, so that all the liquor doesn't run out as they open. Season however you like. This is a favorite of mine. You may not trust me though, when I tell you that pig's feet are also among my favorites!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Pat Hammond

                              I had the same feeling about oysters, tried it once and vowed never to return. That was until I was at a dinner with a large group after a wine tasting and everyone was sipping Champagne and slurpping away, the fear of being singled out as the ONLY one that was not enjoying the slimy suckers I, excuse the pun, swallowed my fear....now I can not stop eating them! So gather with some oyster loving friends, drink some wine and try and focus on the flavor, (tastes the way the ocean smells) and not the texture. Good luck

                            2. I am an oyster lover but I have to have them cooked! I keep trying them raw at my husbands urging but they are just not what I like (they do feel slimy and the flavor is not to my liking). But I will eat them steamed, smoked, stewed, grilled and BBQ'd. The best BBQ'd ones I ate were at Uncle Bubba's near Savannah, GA...yum!

                              1. Buy a tin of smoked oysters first, and eat 'em on soda crackers. They aren't slimy; the texture is sort of like mushrooms, and they taste sort of like bacon.

                                Then get some some good fried oysters somewhere- there has to be some place in town with decent fried oysters- and you will love 'em!

                                Then do the raw thing- spice up some cocktail sauce with lots of horseradish, some hot sauce, and a squeeze of lemon, drop the raw oyster in it, swirl it around, then put the oyster on a soda cracker. Cram the whole thing in your mouth and enjoy. After you have done it awhile you won't even need the sauce or the crackers- they're still good with 'em though!

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Clarkafella

                                  I love oysters just about anyway, but one prep that my wife and I used to love was a plate of smoked oysters (1 tin) (keep them in a small bowl or ramekin so their liquid doesn't spread all over), some nice pate, some cornichons/gherkins, with slices of fresh baguette (plain or toasted, your pick). We might add a couple of small sauces; currant jelly for the pate, spicy cocktail or mignonette for the oysters. Then we'd leisurely munch away, enjoying all the different textures. A little pate and a cornichon on bread gives a nice explosive crunch combined with the unctuousness of the pate. Then you follow that with an oyster and sauce, letting the bread soak up the liquid from both. I'm sure after a plate like this, you'll be less afraid to try them raw.

                                  And to those who "shoot" their oysters - why, in God's name? I'm not saying chew each one thirty times, but at least once or twice to release all the liquor inside.

                                  1. re: KevinB

                                    I am one who "shoots" oysters. And yes, of course I chew it a few times to release the flavor. I think shooting refers more to the ACT of it, rather than lettingit slide down your throat with not a taste.

                                  2. re: Clarkafella

                                    Drop them in a bowl of cream of asparagus soup... decadent!

                                  3. If you like mussels, I don't think that the usual aversions to oysters will apply to you -- the texture is pretty close, and they have that briny taste, so if you like that, you'll like oysters.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: JasmineG

                                      does any one here eat mussels raw?
                                      i ask only because i have never heard of it
                                      i mean you hear of clams and oysters but nevr mussels

                                      1. re: foodperv

                                        Do you like creamed spinach? If so, what about oysters rockefeller, or a variation thereof? You can trick the spinach out with cream, garlic, parmesan - heck throw some diced browned bacon on top...little nests for oysters, little bit of baking, little bit of broiling...it's a fabulous dish.

                                        1. re: Alice Letseat

                                          I'm the direct opposite...I hate oysters Rockefeller or mignonette or anything else added to the raw oyster, except maybe a drop or two of lemon juice.

                                          1. re: Gio

                                            I thought I didnt like mignonette either: until I finally tasted a good one. For me, part of the problem is that they are often made with strong vinegar which overwhelms the oyster taste (and if you don't like the oyster taste, why eat them?)

                                            1. re: susancinsf

                                              The one and only time I had oysters with a mignonette sauce was at one of Todd English's restaurants in Boston. It was just as you say, "with a strong vinegar taste" which did indeed overwhelm the oyster.

                                          2. re: Alice Letseat

                                            Or champagne and spinach sauce run quickly under a broiler. Heaven

                                          3. re: foodperv

                                            R aw mussels aren't really safe and they taste very strong(according to a very adventutous friend of mine). If you're trying to transition into oysters, I think Panee'd is one delicious way to go. in a very small saucepan, clarify 2 sticks of unsalted butter.once solids are removed, add 10-12 cloves finely minced garlic and cook over med. heat till garlic is starting to brown, stirring frequently. skim out the garlic and reserve the garlic. bring the butter to high temp(not smoking, but close) and add 2-3 shucked oysters carefully(it'll spatter) and cook until the edges start to ruffle(about 20 seconds. transfer to a toasted baguette round, squeeze a lemon and sprinkle a little of the fried garlic on it and eat with some nice cold crisp chablis or a blanc de blanc. It's sooo easy and sooooo good.

                                        2. how have oyster usually been prepared for you?

                                          when cooked, they're far from slimey and incredibly similar to mussels. now that you mentioned you've had shellfish generally steamed.. i'm also going to assume you haven't grappled with the task of shucking any of these before either.

                                          go to a reputable seafood restaurant specializing in oysters. try them cooked first, baked, in chowder, or perhaps fried. the cooking makes it not slimey and changes the texture and the flavour. i find the oysters often used for cooking tend to gain a much richer flavour and are very easy to chew through. if you get them baked and topped you won't recognize them in the shell. sometimes frying isn't the best simply because the liquor that comes out will let the batter slide right off.

                                          i looooove this season for oysters because they're more of a creamy, mineral, fresh, melon taste with a touch of briney. the diversity you can get in flavours is astounding. anyhow, if you feel that the cooked oyster was to your liking, move onto a raw one. find smaller ones that won't be a mouthful to contend with. you can cover it up with seafood sauce for the first one to ease into the process. then use less and less additions to try one au naturel.

                                          alcohol will help you, but so will an open minded oyster lover that won't push you into it but will know how to coax you so that you feel comfortable.

                                          1. Here's how I overcame my fear: I was in the Indian Pass Oyster Bar one night in November. Only two other people there, two enormous guys who had apparently arrived on the Harleys out front. They were pretty kitted out in biker gear, had at least a foot and 100 lbs on me, they were shucking oysters. Making conversation, I said "So, how exactly do you shuck oysters, fellas?" Not content to demo the skill, they set me up with a glove, a blade and a HUGE oyster. "Poke the end of the blade into the hinge and twist it", so I did, and it popped right open. "Great job" the enormous guys said,"but what you open, you swallow." So I did. And it was great.

                                            1. Whatever you do, do NOT imagine yourself alone, at night, swimming in the ocean near an oyster bed. It's a bad idea to think about all those oysters, constantly opening and closing their shells for food as the incoming tide pushes you closer... and closer.... There's no point at all in picturing--just perhaps--this is the night they release their hold on the nets and surge forward in a school, driven by their insatiable need for protein, their hunger knowing no bounds, and suddenly they turn toward you, searching blindly but unstoppably and in a moment you feel the first brush of hard shell against your tender skin... and then then more... and then the feeding begins....

                                              No, don't think about that at all.

                                              Think about oyster stew, maybe with butter and sourdough bread.

                                              1. If you want to get over this aversion go with a good friend who likes raw oysters (as this is the best way to enjoy them) to a good classy place that serve them on the half shell. Order 6 small sweet ones (so they are not overwhelming), 3 for you, 3 for the friend. Soak up the atmosphere and the coolness of it all. Order a nice crisp glass of white wine. A Sancerre, Pinot Gris, or a Sav. Blanc will do, something dry, fruity, and a little grassy, take a sip and then put a little of the vinager mix on the oyster and slide it down (do not chew it). It should taste like the ocean and is absolutely delightful. Then have another sip of wine and keep going. After a few you'll like it, I am sure!

                                                1. as an oyster lover who relates to your aversion to the slimy texture, i applaud you.

                                                  if you do decide to go the raw route, i've heard that the best months to get the freshest oysters are months that end in R, so it looks like you're just in time. happy slurping!

                                                  1. I'd suggest starting with them cooked which will alleviate some of the perceived sliminess factor. Go to an oyster bar with friends (discuss this with them first) who are going to have oysters. Have one order a Pan Roast or Oyster Stew and just get a few sips, a spoonful or two, of the soup without an oyster, or order your own cup or bowl and just eat around the oysters. That way you'll get an idea of the taste of oysters without actually having to put one in your mouth and if you don't like the flavor that you're getting, you don't go any farther. But if you want to try more, bum just one oyster, raw, Rockefeller, Bienville, out of the Stew or whatever and go for it. If you can't stand it (maybe have a napkin ready to spit it out), the deed is done. Probably most of the oysters you're going to encounter in SF are quite small and very safe because of the waters they're harvested in. The dangerous bacteria that oysters can harbor (vibrio) thrive in warm waters, that's the scientific reason behind the old saw about avoiding oysters in months that don't have an 'r' in them. They may be present in cold water oysters but in very small amounts, so small a healthy person's stomach acid will kill them.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: brucesw

                                                      Actually the reason for avoiding oysters in a month that doesn't end in R has to do with oysters spawning during months when the water is warmer. The meat is flabbier and not as tasty. The bacteria ... a relatively recent problem within the last few decades ... just is a coincidence.

                                                      While checking the facts about that, I found this great oyster article from Hormel.

                                                      Part of the reason I think it is great is that it agrees with me that Pacific oysters are inferior to other varieties.

                                                      However, it does bring up something I don't think was mentioned. In addition to the preparation of the oyster, the variety is a consideration as it says in the above link ...
                                                      "The Oyster's size, shape, texture and flavor will vary according to the area in which it is found. Their texture varies from soft to firm and their taste varies from bland to salty. The flavor of the meat is dependent on the characteristics of the region in which the Oyster matures. The salt content or minerals existing in the water has a major effect on the flavor of the Oyster"

                                                      It then goes on to give some excellent descriptions the taste of different varieties.

                                                      BTW ... did the OP eat an oyster yet? If so, what did you think?

                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                        I think that the reason that you are not supposed to eat oysters in months that do not end in "r" or, in other words, the spring/summer months, is because of the algae bloom that occurs during the sunnier months. This algae that oysters, mussles, and other shellfish feed on is blooming like crazy at this time of year and although it does not harm them it is poisonous to humans so it's over-abomdunance in their systems is harmful to us . I don;t know what this "bacteria" that everyone is talking about is but the thing that makes shellfish bad to eat during the summer months is a poisonous algae.

                                                        1. re: SFGourmande

                                                          Also, in some months they are fatter and some months they are less substantial. Seasonal cycles of maturation and spawning, you could probably look on wiki for details.

                                                          1. re: SFGourmande

                                                            The algae bloom you're referring, sometimes called a "red tide," usually occurs in warmer (the R months) but doesn't always. When this happens, commercial oystering is suspended because the oysters are dangerous to consume. They're rare enough that they often make the TV news.
                                                            Otherwise, oysters can be eaten year round but they are less flavorful in the R months because that's when they spawn and the flesh is flaccid and "milky." Some farmed oysters and mussels are sterile, don't spawn and have the same taste year round.
                                                            There are bacteria that can infect all shellfish so commercial and recreational gatherers of shellfish have to be careful about where they collect them regardless of the season. Various wildlife and fisheries authorities will usually issue alerts about unsafe conditions if an area should be avoided.

                                                      2. Oysters are a lot like sushi, they're not for everybody. Just give it a try!
                                                        If you don't like it, you can at least say you gave it a whirl.

                                                        I personally hate it when someone says they don't like something, and you ask them if they have tried it, and they say no.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Barbecue Joe

                                                          Oh, I -hate- that. "I don't like it" "Have you ever tasted it?" "Well, no" "Rrrgh!"

                                                          I bugged someone to try uni, and he finally did, then, classic story, he loved it and bugged everyone to try something he had refused for the longest time.

                                                          1. re: Louise

                                                            My experience with uni was the opposite: I think the texture bothered me rather than the taste. Something about the essence of ocean quivering gushily on my tongue before trickleing down my throat to settle uneasily in my stomach...but then, even as a child, I was suspicious of jello, and was conscious of it's fleshy jiggle for hours after I had consumed it.

                                                        2. My husband, our nieces, and I gorged ourselves on oysters in all forms at the Acme Oyster Bar in New Orleans. One of our nieces, who is notoriously picky, actually agreed to try one--first the chargrilled, then the raw. I won't say she enjoyed the raw one, but she did have another chargrilled oyster--and this is a girl who is leery of fried shrimp! So, they're more user-friendly than their reputation would suggest. My husband, who still won't eat sushi, always looks forward to his next plate of raw oysters. I've met very few people who didn't love them, once they tried them.

                                                          1. Like many other posters, I recommend starting small. I also recommend going to a good (and busy) oyster bar, and telling them you're starting out. Busy is good, because they'll have a high turnover rate, which will help ensure freshness. Do NOT get a big oyster...you'll think you're eating an eyeball.

                                                            1. I actually do have a fear of oysters. I love clams (fried, steamed, raw, stuffed) but it turns out that mussels make me VERY sick. So, I have avoided oysters for fear that they have the same *whatever* that mussels do that would make me sick.

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: MissMillie

                                                                Actually, an oyster is closer to a clam than to a mussel. Why would you fear oysters and not clams? Fear not the oyster.

                                                                1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                                                  My mother is Deathly (capital D) allergic to mussels, but can eat (and loves) oysters. If you're being careful though, I'll let you know the other thing her allergy affects is abalone. But my point is, whatever makes her sick in the mussels is not in the oysters.

                                                                  1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                                                    I had always had clams with my family as a little girl and never feared them because they never made me sick. I didn't fear mussels either until time after time after time I would be VERY ill after eating them.

                                                                    I've never had an oyster. I suppose if I had never gotten sick from mussels, I wouldn't be afraid. I didn't know that an oyster was closer to a clam than a mussel... no one has ever said that to me with any certainty ever before.

                                                                    1. re: MissMillie

                                                                      Just to be a bit geeky [adjusts duct taped glasses and smoothes greasy hair] about this, clams, oysters and mussels are all of the phylum Mollusca, class bivalvia, but at that point they start diverging into different orders. Anatomically/structurally, oysters and clams bear greater similarity to one another than to mussels. I'm not an expert, so I take no responsibility for days of vomiting or your throat closing (or whatever else), but I don't think that there's enough difference between clams and oysters (from a biological perspective) that one healthy one would produce something different from another healthy one that would make you ill. In my admittedly anecdotal experience, if one of these beasts is going to be "off", it will be the mussel, and you will know that it's off almost immediately. I wonder... have you ever been tested for a mussel-specific allergy?

                                                                2. My 13-year-old daughter always disliked oysters, but this summer some folks were serving them lightly steamed with lots of garlic butter and crusty bread. She probably ate 2 dozen.

                                                                  Works for snails, too.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                    Yeah, but then all you taste is the garlic...

                                                                    1. re: RicRios

                                                                      Actually, the oyster's briny flavor came through pretty well. Can't say it's my favorite preparation--half shell w/ a squeeze of lemon holds that honor--but it's a good intro to the snotty little guys.