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How to Cook Fresh Oysters in the Shell

by Daria Kelly Uhlig, studioD

Oysters are proof positive that the simplest foods are often the best. Whereas raw oysters pick up distinctive flavors from the bodies of water that produce them, cooked oysters have a more consistent taste. Cook them through in their shells, or take them off the heat partway through to open the shells, then finish them using a different cooking method. Break apart clusters of two or more oysters before you begin. Discard those that have open shells. Scrub the oysters under cool running water to wash away sand and mud.

Steamed Oysters

Add 1 to 2 inches of water, wine or beer to a large pot.

Add the oysters along with garlic and your choice of herbs and spices to the water.

Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat. Steam the oysters until the shells open and the edges curl slightly.

Microwave Cooking

Place oysters cupped side down on a microwavable dish.

Microwave the oysters on high for 45 seconds at a time, until the shells open.

Cook for another several seconds, if necessary, until the oysters' edges curl slightly.

Grilled Oysters

Preheat the grill to high heat.

Place the cleaned oysters directly on the grate, cupped side down. Close the grill lid.

Check the oysters after 2 minutes. Remove the oysters from the grill after the shells open and the edges curl slightly.

Roasted Oysters

Preheat the oven to 450 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place cleaned oysters cupped side down on a baking sheet.

Roast the oysters for 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the size, until the shells open and the edges curl slightly.

Items you will need
  •  Tongs


  • Oysters are safe to eat all year long, but they’re best from November through May, when their higher fat content makes them plumper and more flavorful.
  • Cooking oysters cupped side up causes juices to drain out. Cooking them cupped side down keeps more juice in the shell, but makes it difficult to remove the oysters from the grill or roasting pan.
  • Oyster packaging has a tag that shows the oysters’ harvest date. Cook the oysters within two weeks of that date.
  • Store oysters in the refrigerator, cup side down. Cover the oysters with damp newspaper to keep them moist.
  • Very large oysters may need to cook for an extra moment or two after their shells open.
  • Grilled and roasted oysters are delicious topped with compound butter. Mix your favorite herbs into softened butter. Let the butter harden. Place a dab on each oyster when its shell opens, and let the butter melt into the juices. A splash of fresh lemon juice makes a delicious topping as well.


  • Use caution when microwaving oysters in their shells. Oysters can explode if too much pressure builds before the shell opens.
  • Never store oysters submerged in water. Lack of oxygen suffocates them.

About the Author

Daria Kelly Uhlig began writing professionally for websites in 2008. She is a licensed real-estate agent who specializes in resort real estate rentals in Ocean City, Md. Her real estate, business and finance articles have appeared on a number of sites, including Motley Fool, The Nest and more. Uhlig holds an associate degree in communications from Centenary College.

Photo Credits

  • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images