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Grilled Oysters

Grilled Oysters

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  • Lemon wedges (for serving)

Recipe Preparation

  • Prepare a grill for medium-high heat. Scrub oysters. Place, cupped side down, on grate, cover grill, and grill until oysters begin to open, about 2 minutes. Transfer opened oysters to a platter (discard any that do not open). Let cool slightly, then use an oyster knife or screwdriver to pry shells open, keeping cupped side down and retaining as much liquid as possible. Using an oyster knife or paring knife, cut muscles connecting oysters to shells. Serve warm with butter, lemon wedges, and hot sauce.

Recipe by The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen,Photos by Christopher Testani

Nutritional Content

6 servings, 1 serving contains: Calories (kcal) 240 Fat (g) 7 Saturated Fat (g) 1.5 Cholesterol (mg) 150 Carbohydrates (g) 15 Dietary Fiber (g) 0 Total Sugars (g) 0 Protein (g) 28 Sodium (mg) 320Reviews Section

Grilled Oysters with Chipotle Bourbon Butter

The path of my relationship could potentially be traced in discarded oyster shells. In the case of our recent trip to Seattle, Oregon and California—and the grilled oysters from Hog Island that inspired today’s recipe—those bivalves were coupled with lots of happy food memories. But on a few occasions towards the beginning of our courtship (nearly three years ago!), oysters were the centerpiece of awkwardness–the kind that often plagues first encounters with someone you have a big, radiating crush on.

For our second dinner date, Charlie took me to one of his favorite restaurants in Brooklyn. Unsurprisingly, for I already knew he was a class A hedonist, his ideal meal from the menu consisted of a dozen oysters and a fois gras terrine to start, followed by the venison. He also told me that when he lived in the area, he often sat at the bar on weeknights and ordered the 5-course tasting menu by himself. It was, apparently, a great deal.

As I pictured us growing old together—me in the kitchen with a linen smock dress and Diane Keaten-esque shaggy lob, Charlie in the study, his smoking jacket covering a belly that had submitted to the duress of years of goose liver and camembert—the first oyster reached my lips, and this fantasy was replaced by a more pressing fear of food poisoning.

What was usually a refreshing gulp of cooling sea water and brine, had the funk of a seafood counter cutting board that hadn’t been cleaned in a week. Our faces soured in unison, and I could see Charlie’s inner dialogue fill with panic.

What did it say about his taste in food that he had brought us to a restaurant with spoiled seafood? Could any amount of fois gras pate make up for such an offense? Should we send them back? Or hope that the first two were a fluke and eat the remaining dozen?

I, on the other hand, was focusing more on the small matter of what these oysters would do to our insides during the proceeding 24 hours. Could we even go home together knowing that we might end up side by side on the bathroom floor?

Ordinarily, I would have immediately notified the server and returned the metal basin to the kitchen. But my own internal debate compelled me to quiet my pushy side in favor of Charlie’s unconfrontational ways. Instead of speaking up, I flipped the remaining oysters shell-side up. The waiter cleared the presumably empty platter, and we summoned the power of selective memory and went on to enjoy our remaining dishes from the land.

When you get a bad mollusk you know it immediately. But like the tequila shot that broke the camel’s back, it’s too late to do anything but await the consequences. Perhaps it was good karma for giving the server and kitchen staff a pass, but this time the bad oysters let us off easy (the hangover equivalent of a full pardon). And without the painful aftermath, I soon forgot about that part of the meal altogether.

It wasn’t until months later that I found out (through Charlie’s mother) that my oyster empathy was what really sealed the deal. And though my pushy outspoken side is the one I wear on my sleeve most days, it is nice to remember that keeping a complaint inside doesn’t always poison the well.

Luckily, our three years of joint oyster experiences have only gone uphill from there. And some of the best highlights have been pulled out of the waters of Tomales Bay.

Thanks to endless wedding season, Charlie and I have developed a little tradition of spending a few nights in Inverness every time a friend gets married in California. When we do, a stop at Hog Island Oyster Company across the bay is a must. Their oysters can be found on menus across the country, but never are they more sweet and subtle than when they’re served on the wooden patio, after being plucked straight from the sea five feet away. (For the record, when we’re home, we rarely order varieties from the West Coast thanks to that second date incident!).

It seems sacrilege to mess with a food that’s so perfect in its pure, unaltered state. But once you taste the Bourbon Chipotle Butter, which Hog Island slathers on their chargrilled oysters before throwing them on the BBQ, you realize it would be a crime not to doctor them from time to time.

We usually don’t manage to leave Tomales Bay without having ordered a second round of these BBQ oysters. The melted chipotle bourbon butter mixes with the salty oyster brine, and arrives bubbling within the deep trough of the shell. The garlic, honey and hot peppers that cling to the meaty surface of the oyster caramelize just enough so that their flavors don’t overpower the seafood. And the whole thing goes down like a sweet, buttery pillow.

I’ve adapted the butter recipe from Hog Island’s website to suit a dozen oysters, as I can’t imagine you would want to shuck more than that at home. Once you’ve gone through the extra effort of opening the shells, though, these oysters only take 3 minutes to cook on the grill or under the broiler. And if there’s ever a time for a little bit of extra hedonism in butter form, it’s during the last few days of summer.

So let your hair down this weekend, indulge in a little chipotle bourbon butter, and if you happen to get a bad one in your batch of grilled oysters, just turn over the shell and try to enjoy the party. Charlie and I will be on Martha’s Vineyard, no doubt adding to the trail of oyster shells in our wake.

Grilled Oysters with Garlic Parmesan Butter

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 clove garlic, finely minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 freshly shucked oysters, on the half-shell

Heat a grill to medium-high (400 to 450 degrees). In a medium bowl, use a rubber spatula to combine the butter, 1/4 cup of the cheese, the parsley, lemon juice and garlic until completely combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

When the grill is hot, place 1 tablespoon of the garlic butter on top of each oyster, then top with the remaining cheese. Place the oysters directly on the grill grates, shell-side down, and close the lid. Cook until the cheese has melted and edges of oysters have curled slightly, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Recipe Steps

1: Set up your grill for direct grilling and heat to medium-high (400 degrees).

2: Make the topping: Melt the butter in a small skillet. Add the prosciutto and scallion whites and saute until browned and crisp, 2 minutes. Let the mixture cool to room temperature, then stir in the lemon zest.

3: Shuck the oysters, sliding the knife under each bivalve to loosen it from the bottom shell. Discard the top shell. Arrange the oysters in a shellfish rack so you don’t lose the juices. (Alternatively, balance the shells between the bars of the grill grate.) Place a spoonful of the prosciutto-butter mixture in each oyster. Top with a pinch of scallion greens and a sprinkling of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

4: Add the wood to the coals, if using. Place the oysters on their rack on the grill grate. Grill until the oysters are barely cooked and the juices are bubbling, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve at once.

For the bread:: Cut the bread into 1 by 1 by 6 inch strips. Direct grill until golden, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

One More Thing to Throw on the Grill: Oysters

There is a magical place in South Carolina where I became a cooked-oyster convert. Both times I've been to Bowens Island Restaurant it has been dusk, and from the wooden deck you watch as the sun sets over the salt marshes that provide this bustling seafood shack with the product it's famous for: those mild, briny oysters. They show up in front of you still smeared with a little of the pluff mud they've been pulled from, which is redolent of the marshes but gives off, as Jane and Michael Stern put it, "a good stink, an ocean aroma that adds mineral salubrity to the oyster flavor." These oysters are served on trays or—for the ambitious—in buckets. They are a marvelous mess, they are fantastically delicious, but here is what they are not: difficult to pry open. They do not need to be shucked. They give of themselves with only the gentlest tug.

How to Buy Oysters Like a Pro

Actually, saying the oysters have been "cooked" is probably overstating it they've been lightly steamed, but retain a raw, warm snap. And therein lies a little trick: As with other bivalves, a bit of heat is all it takes to get the shells to pop open, providing relief for the home cook who doesn't own, or is not dexterous with, an oyster knife. (An admission: As an amateur myself, I tried to shell some raw oysters last weekend and ended up with shards all over the kitchen. This doesn't have me discouraged: being bad at oysters provides a great excuse to go out and get some more. It's practice!) As mussels open in a steaming pot of white wine, so do oysters open on the grill—where we highly recommend you cook your next batch.

Here is the long and short of it: Light the grill. Put the oysters on it, flat side down, and leave them there until they open. This takes about two or three minutes. Now remove them from the heat.

And that's it. That's all it takes for easy oysters, opened with zero effort, juicy as they ever were, and kissed with just a touch of smoke.

What now? You can accentuate that with this chipotle vinaigrette, or go the other direction and serve them with this herb butter. Or you could do as they do at Bowens Island and just keep a little Texas Pete on hand. You can't go wrong dressing oysters, no more than you can go wrong grilling them.

Tip 3: Butter

There are [at least] two things to consider when you're thinking about butter. Do you add it before the oyster is cooked, or after?

The classic way to serve barbecued oysters is drizzled with garlic butter and splashed with Tabasco. This method involves cooking the oysters whole. After about 15 minutes or so on a grill, the oysters will steam open about a quarter inch. Pry the shells apart with an oyster knife, and add a spoonful of sauce. You can eat it right away, or put the oyster back on the grill (cupped side down) to let the butter cook a bit longer. We have also been known to simply shuck the cooked oysters into a vat of melted garlic butter for hot holding and max butter factor.

A different method is to take the top off the oyster before you cook it, add the butter, and then roast the oyster cupped side down. This has the advantage of reducing the burn factor (since you're not handling a hot shell full of hot oyster liquid) and allowing the oyster and butter to caramelize together. It has the disadvantage of increasing the likelihood that a bunch of melted butter is going to drip out of the oyster and into the bottom of the propane grill, where it will flame up and cause greasy smoke.

We love Renee Erickson's "snail butter" (available in her cookbook), Hog Island Oyster Company's chipotle-bourbon oyster butter (which we sell online), and our own nettle clam steaming butter (available here).

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, preferably Irish
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 24 large oysters, scrubbed

Preheat grill to medium-high.

Heat butter and garlic in a small saucepan until melted, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in parsley, chives, lemon zest and juice, pepper and salt until well combined.

Grill oysters, cupped-side down, until they pop open and the meat is firm, about 5 minutes. Transfer the oysters to a platter, cupped-side down (to retain as much of the juice as possible). Discard any that do not open. Run an oyster knife or paring knife under the meat to separate it from the top shell. Top each oyster with a little of the herb butter and serve immediately.

Classic Grilled Oysters

The hardest part about grilling oysters is opening the bivalves. Once you've done that, you can place them on a very hot grill, ladle on your favorite sauce, and watch them sizzle and caramelize. If using a charcoal grill, it’s possible to do a half-dozen batches of oysters over the same fire, but as the coals begin to cool, the oysters will take longer. If you’re planning to grill more than a couple dozen, use a charcoal chimney or chimney starter to get extra coals hot so you can add more briquettes as the fire starts to cool. Long-handled, sturdy tongs and a long-handled ladle are helpful. Sometimes, oysters near the edge need to be moved toward the hotter area of the grill. and the tongs make that easier to maneuver.

Serve these with crusty French bread.

Total time: 35 minutes (does not include shucking the oysters).


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4 servings as appetizer makes sauce for 2 dozen large oysters

Related Recipes

Prepare a grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to high (500 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes once the briquettes are white hot, distribute them under the cooking area for direct heat. For a hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 5 inches above the coals for 2 to 3 seconds.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, add the butter, garlic, hot sauce, paprika and Worcestershire sauce and heat until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat and wait 5 minutes, then add the parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, combine both types of bread crumbs.

Using a shucking knife, open the oysters, leaving them on the half-shell, and carefully place them on a tray without tilting and losing any juices. (If you are new to grilling oysters, do not cut oysters loose from the bottom of the shell. This prevents the oysters from slipping out of the shell if you have difficulty while maneuvering them)

Using tongs, place each oyster on the grill clockwise, starting from the outside and working toward the center, where the fire is hottest. Bigger oysters with thicker shells should go toward the center for greater heat.

Using a long-handled ladle, spoon about 1 tablespoon of the butter sauce on each shucked oyster. (Oysters come in lots of different shapes and sizes, so add more or less as needed.) Using a long-handled spoon, sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture and then the Parmesan over. (The coals will be hot, so, if you don't have long-handled tools, you may want to sauce the oysters first and then carefully place them on the grill.)

Grill the oysters until the oyster juice has almost evaporated, the edges of the oyster begin to curl, and the cheese and bread crumbs start to brown at the edges as does the shell itself. The oysters will not all be done at the same time: Small, thin-shelled oysters may grill in just a few minutes. Large oysters with deeper and/or thicker shells and more liquid may take 5 or 6 minutes.

As the oysters are done, use the tongs to remove the cooked oysters to a heatproof platter.

Grilled Oysters - Recipes


Butter garlic sauce should be prepared just prior to grilling the oysters. In a large sauté pan, add 2 sticks of butter and place over medium heat. Melt the butter and bring to a simmer. Add green onions, garlic, red pepper, thyme, oregano, lemon juice, Worchestershire sauce and Creole seasoning. Cook for 2 minutes and add white wine. Stir ingredients continuously and cook until green onions are soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 3 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl (before mixture is completely cool) combine the remaining butter with the sauce. Blend until butter is melted and folded into the sauce. Final product should have a creamy consistency.

Grilling Oysters

Pre-heat grill to 350°. Once at 350°, place freshly shucked oyster on the half shell on the center of the grill. Once the water around the oyster begins to bubble and the oyster begins to rise, ladle 1 tablespoon of the butter garlic sauce on top of each oyster. Top with a dusting of cheese, and allow the cheese to melt. Serve immediately with warm French bread for dipping.

Note: Make sure that the sauce is well blended. This insures the proper blend of butter and seasoning. Oysters should brown slightly around the edges. Remove oysters and place on a heat-resistant plate or platter. While still hot, add 1 teaspoon of butter sauce to the top of each oyster.

  • 1 dozen oysters
  • 4 to 5 ounces compound butter, such as garlic-parsley butter, kimchi butter, or Parmesan-basil butter
  • Seaweed or kosher salt, for serving

Line a rimmed baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil, crinkling it up to create deep creases. Shuck oysters, discard top shells, and place them on foil-lined baking sheet, using foil to keep them upright so that juices do not spill out.

Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange coals on one side of charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill, and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Alternatively, set half the burners on a gas grill to the highest heat setting, cover, and preheat for 10 minutes. Clean and oil grilling grate.

Place oysters directly over hot side of grill. Using 2 spoons, place 2 teaspoons (10ml) of compound butter inside each. Cover and cook until butter is melted and liquid is bubbling, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter lined with seaweed or moistened kosher salt (to keep oysters level see note) and serve immediately.

Watch the video: How To Use Manual Controls on Countertop Ovens. Oster (May 2022).


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