Oysters are most often enjoyed raw on the half shell or baked as Oysters Rockefeller. They can also be steamed or grilled until the shells just open and the oysters are still swimming in their juices. The same result can be achieved by smoking oysters either in their shells or on the half shell.
You might be familiar with the canned variety of smoked oysters that are sometimes served at cocktail parties with toothpicks or crackers. These can have a very dominant smoke flavor. Smoking oysters yourself will result in a much cleaner tasting shellfish with the fresh oyster flavor being prominent.
If you do some research on smoking oysters you are likely to see recipes that call for brining the oysters before smoking them. This is a little odd as oysters are naturally brined in seawater. Upon further research, it appears that the brining method is used when you are trying to replicate the flavor and texture of canned smoked oysters. This makes sense if you intend to preserve your smoked oysters in sealed jars.
My feeling is that fresh oysters don’t really need a whole lot of extra preparation before smoking. Oysters are quite nice all by themselves. A little hot sauce or compound butter might be all that you need to achieve excellent results. For the recipes here we will do a compound butter smoked oyster and a quickly marinated smoked oyster. If you are a purist, simply smoke the oysters in their whole shells until they just open and serve with cocktail sauce or a mignonette sauce. These are easy and delicious.
Be sure the oysters are super fresh. They should not have a fishy smell or any discoloration. And, the shells should be tightly closed. If any of the shells are open and do not close when tapped discard those oysters, as they are likely no longer alive.
Are Oysters Good for Us?
Oysters are a high protein, low fat, low carbohydrate, and low calorie seafood. They are a fantastic source of vitamin B12, vitamin D, zinc, copper, selenium, iron, and omega 3 fatty acids. In fact, the omega 3 fatty acids content is approximately 550% of the recommended daily amount (RDA). The zinc content is approximately 500% of the RDA, and the B12 content is nearly 275% of the RDA.
The selenium in oysters supports thyroid function and protects against cancer. Vitamin B12 is essential for brain health and energy. Omega 3 fatty acids are necessary for cardiovascular health. So, eat some oysters.
Smoked Oysters with Compound Butter
You will need to shuck the oysters for this recipe. The idea is to expose the muscle so that it absorbs plenty of the smoke. Here is a short tutorial video from America’s Test Kitchen for how to shuck oysters. If you are not confident in your shucking skills, you can have your fishmonger do it. If that is what you opt to do, please have your fish monger save and reserve all of the juices, as you will want the oysters to cook in them.
- 24 fresh whole oysters
- 1 stick butter at room temperature
- 2 slices of bacon, cut in half
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 TBS minced parsley
- 4 lemon wedges
- Water and Sauvignon Blanc wine
- Mild wood chips, such as apple or maple
Total time: 1 hour – Prep time: 25 min – Cook time: 35 min – Serves: 4 people
1. Heat a skillet over medium-high. Place the 4 bacon halves in the skillet and cook until quite crispy. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
2. Place the softened butter in a medium bowl. Crumble the bacon and add it to the bowl. Mince the garlic and add to the bowl. Add the parsley and mix all together with fork until well blended. Place the butter on a sheet of plastic wrap in a log shape that is approximately 1 inch in diameter. Roll the butter in the wrap tightly to form a cylinder. Twist the ends tightly. Place the compound butter in the freezer while you preheat the smoker and shuck the oysters. The butter needs to be cold enough to slice into coins.
3. Set up your smoker by placing a combination of water and dry white wine in the water bowl. Place the wood chips in the tray. Open the top vent and preheat the smoker to 200°F – 225°F.
4. Shuck the oysters and place them carefully on sheet trays without spilling the liquid or crowding the oysters. If they were previously shucked by your fish monger, place the oysters in the deep halves of the shells and pour a little of the oyster liquor on them.
5. Take the compound butter out of the freezer. Unwrap it and cut into 1/4 inch thick coils. Place a coin of butter on top of each oyster. Place the sheet trays carefully into the smoker. Smoke for 30 minutes and check for a slight cook on the oysters. You want them a little smoky with curled edges and melted butter. Continue to smoke at 15 minute intervals until the desired cook is achieved, being careful not to dry the oysters out.
6. Serve the oysters with lemon wedges. For a nice presentation, you can place table salt on a platter and nestle the oysters into the salt to hold them in place. These smoked oysters pair nicely with glasses of cold Sauvignon Blanc or Proseco.
Marinated Smoked Oysters
If you are looking for a flavor that is a bit more assertive, faintly similar to canned oysters, this recipe calls for marinating the oysters before smoking them.
- 24 fresh whole oysters
- 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 2 TBS fresh lemon juice
- 2 tsps hot sauce
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- Hickory or pecan wood chips (or your favorite)
Total time: 1 hour 10 min – Prep time: 20 min – Cook time: 50 min – Serves: 4 people
1. In a large glass or plastic bowl, combine marinade ingredients and mix well. Remove the oysters from their shells. Save the larger half of the shell for smoking. Place the oysters in the marinade and coat well. Allow the oysters to marinate for 30 to 45 minutes.
2. Set up your smoker by filling the water bowl half way. Place the wood chips in the tray. Open the top vent and preheat the smoker to 200°F – 225°F.
3. Place the oysters in their larger shell halves and add a little of the marinade to each one. balance the oysters directly on the smoker racks. Smoke for 45 to 60 minutes until cooked through.
4. Serve with a nice big leafy green salad and some toasted bread.