The Basics to Oyster Buying & Storing

Ordering oysters on the half shell at your favorite restaurant is great for date night or happy hour, but sometimes you want to test your culinary skills or entertain guests at home. If buying and ordering oysters sounds like a daunting task, don’t worry, it’s actually quite simple! You can even leave the dirty working — shucking — to us. The Maryland Seafood Co-op has a network of experienced shuckers for hire to serve up oysters at your next private event.

The key to choosing your oyster source is trust. Whether you decide to call up your neighborhood waterman or visit your local seafood market, it’s crucial to buy oysters from a source that cares about quality and food safety. Don’t be shy to ask when and where they were harvested, and be sure to search for online reviews, if possible. No matter how far from the coast, consumers are now able to get fresh oysters shipped straight to their door. Ordering a box of Chesapeake Bay oysters from the Maryland Seafood Co-op is a great way to ensure your oysters are safe, delicious, and taste like home.

You’ll want to know the basics before you head to the store or look in your delivered box. Live oysters should feel heavy and full of water, and will be tightly clamped shut or will close shut when tapped. Dead oysters, however, will have loose shells. Alive: good. Dead: bad.

So, now that you’ve made your purchase — what next? Once you bring these prized possessions home, time is of the essence. First, discard any dead oysters with broken shells. Like most bivalves, oysters need to be kept cold and alive in shell so they don’t attract any harmful bacteria. Your best bet is to keep them large shell-side down in the refrigerator in an open container covered with a damp cloth. Never seal live oysters in an airtight container — they’ll suffocate and die!

Live oysters can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, but for the freshest, most flavorful bites, you’ll want to consume them within 24 hours. If you’ve ordered too many (impossible!), you can freeze shucked oysters, but never while in their shell. Then, thaw and use for cooking like normal. Once cooked, oysters should be consumed within 3 days if refrigerated. It’s best not to freeze cooked oysters, as they become tough to chew once thawed. Nobody likes chewy shellfish.

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