Oysters Grilled And Raw

Saw Anthony Bourdain enjoying some grilled oysters in Baja California on “No Reservations,” so I fired some up for Fourth of July.

How To Grill Oysters:

Get the grill really flaming hot (I used mesquite charcoal and mesquite chips)

Put the oysters down, shell on.

(don’t be confused by that top image: the oysters should be in the shell, and the shell should be closed.  If the shell’s open, chuck ’em)

In 3-4 minutes they’ll pop open.

Take ’em off (with a glove or towel because they’re hot!).

Pop ’em open with a flathead screwdriver.

For sauce, I used this recipe from Food52 (ht Wrenshall).


Let’s learn more about oysters.

The type I grilled were Pacific oysters.  Maybe the most widely grown bivalve in the world.

Crassostrea gigas was named by a Swedish naturalist, Carl Peter Thunberg in 1795. It originated from Japan, where it has been cultured for hundreds of years. It is now the most widely farmed and commercially important oyster in the world, as it is very easy to grow, environmentally tolerant and is easily spread from one area to another. The most significant introductions were to the Pacific Coast of the United States in the 1920s and to France in 1966. In most places, the Pacific oyster was introduced to replace the native oyster stocks which were seriously dwindling due to overfishing or disease. In addition, this species was introduced to create an industry that was previously not available at all in that area. As well as intentional introductions, the Pacific oyster has spread through accidental introductions either through larvae in ballast water or on the hulls of ships. In some places in the world, though, it is considered by some to be an invasive species, where it is outcompeting native species, such as the Olympia oyster in Puget Sound, Washington, the rock oyster, Saccostrea commercialis in the North Island of New Zealand and the blue mussel, Mytilus edulis, in the Wadden Sea.

Specifically we had Pacific Gold and Carlsbad.  Carlsbad are farmed in Carlsbad, CA:

Here’s Thomas Grimm, co-founder of Golden Shore, which owns Carlsbad Aquafarm:

What’s the history of oysters in California?  Well everyone knows Jack London was an oyster pirate.

But beyond that? My research ends with the mysterious Mose Wicks.

I wanted to learn more about different types of oysters, with maps.  I found this great guide on WaitersToday.com.

Since the mid-1800’s most oysters have been cultured or farmed.Clad in rubber boods and rain gear,oyster growers spend hours on blustery beaches nursing their crop.

Along with current efforts to globalize oyster stocks,the growers we use have helped to foster the interest in boutique oysters – gourmet strains,with names reflecting their bays of origin.

In the old days it was simply “Hood Canal Oysters”.Now we’ll have Hamma,Sunset Beach,Pleasent Cove,Annas Bay,Little Creek,and Dabob Bay just to name a few.All of which are Hood Canal.

Many of these oysters come from small scale farms,which like regional vineyards have proliferated in the past 20 years.

What a helpful site!  I look forward to reading more on WaitersToday.

(If you go down to Australia though?  to eat the oysters there?  you enter a whole new world.


Readers seriously interested in oysters will enjoy Mark Kurlansky’s great book on the subject.

Kurlansky tells us:

Diarist Samuel Pepys often mentioned eating, giving, or receiving oysters for breakfasts, lunches, and inners – in all he mentions oysters fifty times in his diaries.  Dr. Johnson fed oysters to his cat, Hodge, buying them personally because he feared that if he sent servants, they would end up resenting the cat.


William K. Brooks, the nineteenth century Maryland pioneer in the study of oysters, said, “A fresh oyster on the half-shell is no more dead than an ox that has been hamstrung.”  If the oyster is opened carefully, the diner is eating an animal with a working brain, a stomach, intestines, liver, and a still-beating heart.  As for the “liquor,” that watery essence of oyster flavor that all good food writers caution to save, it is mostly oyster blood.

In 1932, at a convention of the Oyster Growers Association in Atlantic City, Dr. Vera Koehring of the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries said that it was cruel and inhuman to crack open an oyster’s shell and pry the animal loose.  Dr. Koehring proposed, “The oysters, before being shelled, should be given an anesthetic.”


The New York of the second half of the nineteenth century was a city overtaken by oystermania.  It was usual for a family to have two oyster dinners a week, one of which would be on Sunday.  It was one of the few moments in culinary history when a single food, served in more or less the same preparations, was commonplace for all socioeconomic levels.  It was the food of Delmonico’s and the food of the dangerous slum.  The oyster remained inexpensive.  Shucked oysters were sold by street vendors for twenty-five cents a quart.  The poor person might eat raw oysters from a street stand or have a stew at the market – it was cheap enough – or a wealthy man might get the same raw oysters to start his meal or the same stew for a fish course at the most expensive restaurants.  At Delmonico’s, a serving of six or eight oysters, depending on the size, cost twenty-five cents.

This is also just a great book about New York.  Maybe the best pop history of Dutch New York after Shorto:

Here’s a good NYTimes article from 2006 about oyster varieties.  First two paragraphs:

A FOOTLOOSE young American named Jon Rowley sat in a down-at-the-heels room in Paris one day in the mid-1960’s, reading “A Moveable Feast,” Ernest Hemingway’s posthumously published memoir of life in the city during the 1920’s.

One passage above all seized his attention. Hemingway had written, “As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”

I guess my point is, oysters are interesting!  Let’s agree to meet back here and discuss oyster gender sometime.


Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas equiped with activity electrodes to follow their daily behavior 24/7



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