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Oct 29, 2007 05:53 PM

BBQ'ing oysters

Fresh from Hog Island. Bought some for raw and some for the Q.

Do you shuck em' before you grill them or does it not matter?

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  1. I think you should shuck them so that you could season it before your grill them. It may be difficult to keep the shell stable (try wrapping some foil around it to make a base) but it should be good when it's grilled and allowed to cook in its own liquor.

    1. Well, as an update.....we put them on the grill whole. They opened in about 4-5 minutes but we had to put the BBQ sauce on them when they were already cooked. I think I agree that we should have opened them, put the sauce on and then grilled them.

      They were good but did not absorb the seasoning.

      1. I realize it's too late, but some advice for next time: Don't shuck 'em first. Put them directly on the grill, whole, and closed. Toss any that aren't closed, because they're dead. When they open, they're done. Toss any that don't open, because they were dead when you put them on the grill. Once they're open, you can sauce 'em up, then eat.

        10 Replies
        1. re: ricepad

          I know this thread is old, but I just wanted to verify something you wrote, ricepad:

          You wrote: "Toss any that don't open, because they were dead when you put them on the grill."

          How do you know this?

          I know that mussels that open only a millimeter when cooked are dead. Could it be that oysters (particularly large ones) are so much stronger than mussels that they won't open even a millimeter when dead?

          PS Why do you prefer not to shuck them before grilling?

          1. re: damian

            Bivalves should be cooked while they're still alive. If they were dead when you cook them, there's no way to tell how long they've been dead and they may have started to go toxic. When they're raw, they may be either open or closed, depending on a lot of things. The animal inside will close the shell when you tap them together - this is the animal's way of protecting itself. If it doesn't close, it's dead and should be discarded. (If they've been on ice, they may close very slowly because they're cold, but if they're alive, they should still's a protective reflex.) Hence, all the oysters you put on the grill should be closed. Some of them are alive, and some are dead.

            As they cook, the oyster will attempt to keep itself cool by opening it's shell. These oysters are (or at least WERE) alive, and are ok to eat. Any that remain firmly shut were dead when place on the grill, and should be discarded with the other dead ones.

            It's not a matter of strength. It's protection (closing) and keeping cool (opening) that helps you suss out the dead ones from the live ones. If you shuck them first, you don't know if the closed ones were dead already.

            Will you definitely get sick from eating an oyster that was dead prior to cooking it? Well,'s not guaranteed. But bivalves go bad VERY quickly in the shell once dead, so it's not worth the risk. Not to me, at any rate.

            1. re: ricepad

              Ok. Thank you. That is helpful.

              But I thought that bivalves open—at least slightly—when they die. At least, that's what I heard about mussels anyway. Is that not necessarily true?

              I know that if they don't close when tapped, it means they're dead, but is not also true that if they're closed prior to cooking, it means they're alive?

              I thought the hinge muscle relaxes when they die, but perhaps I was mistaken. Or perhaps oysters are slightly different than mussels.

              Could you please clarify?

              1. re: damian

                When dead but uncooked, they may be open OR closed. If they're open and alive, they'll close when you knock them together. That's how they tell you "Go AWAY!" So you take all the raw and open oysters and rattle 'em around a bit, then pick out the ones that STAY open and toss them. The ones that were open that closed as a result of your pestering them are alive, and ready to eat. But then you also have a bunch of oysters that have been closed the entire time you've been inspecting them. So you cook them up with the alive/closed ones, too. The oysters that started closed and open up are saying, "Holy crap, it's getting HOT in here!" They were alive when you started to cook them, so you can eat them, too. The ones that started closed and stay closed, however...they checked out to the Great Oysterbed In The Sky. Dead oysters that are closed will stay closed, even when cooked. They may be freshly dead (and safe to eat), OR they may have been dead for just long enough to make you very sick. Having eaten one of the latter one time, I don't take my chances any more.

                1. re: ricepad

                  Brilliant explanation! Thank you :)

                  1. re: ricepad

                    ricepad DOES have a good way of explaining it. all I can say is these creatures aren't much more than a filtering system of limited neural synapses. reactions to physical stimuli are about all they have going. although I have heard conjecture their haiku is rarely found but excellent.

                    and if you're REALLY into oysters I suggest Mark Kurlansky's book "History on The Half Shell"

                    1. re: hill food

                      Thank! I am REALLY into oysters, so perhaps I'll check that book out!

                2. re: ricepad

                  now if you are doing oyster clusters like we do here in South Carolina you will be prying them open....

                  1. re: ricepad

                    "These oysters are (or at least WERE) alive" - ricepad

                    damian I know I sorta sidetracked that other thread a touch, but with tiny brained, cold-blooded animals the reflexive tissue and nervous system react long after true death (I hacked a poisonous snake on my patio last Spring and 20 hours later as I was attempting to shove it's headless body into a jar of rubbing alcohol it was still fighting me) so if a bivalve is not reacting it means it's been quite long dead.

              2. We also do not open them when we grill. We do not put BBQ sauce but dip them in melted butter with lemon juice and parsley or tarragon when they are done. It is divine that way!

                1. The absolute best food I have ever eaten in my entire life, and in fact shared 3 dozen with my family just today, are chargrilled oysters. They are made here in New Orleans at several restaurants and are absolutely sinful. My mother who hates oysters loves loves loves these!!! We have replicated them at our home with success. We shuck the oysters, but leave them on the half shell, then we get the heat very hot on the grill and place them on. We then ladle a butter/garlic mixture that we purchase from Drago's restaurant (you can make it on your own because Drago's has posted the recipe on line) and the butter rains down on the grill causing flames which just char the edges of the shells and create a delicious smoky flavor. The oysters cook for 5-7 minutes or until the oysters edges began to curl up. We then sprinkle parmesan cheese over them and serve with good crusty french bread for sopping. They are so yummy : )

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: mtleahy

                    i am no oyster fan, but mtleahy, that really sounds delicious.

                    drago's chargrilled oysters recipe:

                    searching for drago's recipe, i found the times-picayune recipe site: mmm good!

                    another fabulous new orleans recipe site, where you can also search by restaurant name:

                    1. re: alkapal

                      If you haven't seen the Eat St. segment on Drago' must see it.


                    2. re: mtleahy

                      We had these also this past weekend, and they were sooooooooo good! I am definitely going to try to recreate these at home. I thought there were breadcrumbs in it, but thinking back, I can totally see how that might have been all cheese! Sweet! Go Atkins diet!

                      1. re: mtleahy

                        Chargrilled oysters are like crack. I had them at the Half Shell Oyster House in Gulfport last year, and dreamed about them. They opened in Sarasota a couple months ago, and last Monday delucacheesemonger and I ate dozen after dozen. 4 varieties, just do it.