Oyster Confidence: The Practical Guide to Boost Your Half Shell Game | Julie Qiu | Skillshare

Oyster Confidence: The Practical Guide to Boost Your Half Shell Game

Julie Qiu, Oyster Sommelier & Bivalve Blogger

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10 Lessons (49m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Consider the Oyster

    • 3. Types of Oysters

    • 4. How Oysters Are Grown

    • 5. Going Out for Oysters

    • 6. Tasting Oysters

    • 7. Visiting the Lobster Place

    • 8. How to Shuck Oysters

    • 9. Traveling for Oysters

    • 10. More Culinary Classes on Skillshare


About This Class

Up your half-shell game with expert Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell’s light-hearted, practical guide to oysters. Covering everything from the life of an oyster to how to order, buy, shuck, and serve our favorite happy-hour bite, this on-location, 45-minute class is for every curious enthusiast and aspiring connoisseur. In addition to video lessons, take advantage of Julie's 9 curated worksheets to kickstart, track, and extend your culinary adventure. This is the perfect class for making the most of any oyster bar visit, dinner party, and trip to the market.




1. Introduction: Hi there. My name is Julie Qiu, and I blog about oysters on inahalfshell.com. There's something about the oyster that sparks your imagination and sense of adventure, you never know what you're going to discover, or where the oysters might take you. I live in New York City, and over the last four years I've sought out oysters from all over the world. I've had the great opportunity to try over 300 market varieties from six continents, 15 countries, and hundreds of different regions. Some people are really into wine, or cheese, or coffee, I'm really into oysters. From talking with other consumers, I've noticed that there's a huge knowledge gap between us and the industry. So, with skill share I want to create an oyster class for any oyster lover, whether you're a novice or a long-time fan to immediately improve your oyster experiences at the raw bar and at home. At the same time, I want to lay the foundations for a lifelong appreciation of oysters. I hope that the format of this class will allow you to explore, question, and have fun. In this class, you're going to learn these following skills. Everything an oyster lover needs to know about what they're eating and where they come from, how to make the most out of going out for oysters, and how to buy them to stock at home, how to shuck oysters and store them, and how to taste oysters like a connoisseur and keep track of your experiences. Whether you want to go out for oysters, or curious about shucking them at home, this Skillshare class is going to provide and you with the skills and knowledge to help improve any Half Shell experience. 2. Consider the Oyster: Hey, oyster fans. Thank you so much for joining my class. I'm so excited to teach you more about oysters and hope that this class can help make your future oyster experiences more enjoyable. Before we begin, let's cover off on some fundamentals. So, exactly, what are we eating? Oysters are bivalve mollusks, which means that they have two shells that are connected by a small hinge. Clams, mussels, and scallops are also other examples of bivalves. The oysters that we eat aren't the same ones that make pretty pearls. Pearl oysters are a different species altogether that are more related to a saltwater clam. Oysters are filter feeders that eat phytoplankton and algae in the water. Ninety-five percent of the oysters we eat are farmed. There are still some regions in the country that wild harvest oysters, but it seems like the trend is moving toward sustainable agriculture. We'll talk more about how oysters are grown a little bit later on. But what about nutritional value? Oysters are surprisingly good for you. They are packed with vitamins and minerals and very low in calories and fat, while high in protein. They are good source of magnesium and phosphorus, and a great source of vitamin D, B12, iron, copper, manganese and selenium. Most surprisingly, oysters are the richest source of zinc we know about. About six medium-sized oysters contain five times the recommended daily amount of zinc. Zinc plays an important role in wound healing, and in maintaining a healthy immune system. Zinc also helps boost testosterone in men, which could provide a scientific backing to the idea that oysters are aphrodisiacs. So, I want to take a minute to show you guys the difference between a healthy live oyster and one that is not so fresh and on the verge of death. So here, we have a fresh live oyster. Notice that there's a lot of liquid in the shell. The meat is very hydrated and plump and fills the shell nicely. Here on the other hand, is another oyster of the same kind. You'll see that the meat is actually stuck into the shell. It looks extremely dehydrated and not so happy. This oyster is not as fresh as the first first one, and probably should not be consumed Lastly, let's wrap up by talking about the elephant in the room. Having a bad oyster is no fun at all. Fortunately, I've never gotten sick off of oyster. However, eating raw shellfish will always have some level of risk. So, it's really important to know what they are and how to manage them. One of the greatest threats to our oyster enjoyment is the presence of vibrio. Vibrio vulnificus is a bacteria that naturally grows in warm coastal areas. However, it's found in higher concentrations during the summer months when the temperature of the water increases. Although it doesn't harm the oyster, it can make people sick if ingested. Unfortunately, in recent years, the number of cases of vibrio has only climbed around the country due to rising ocean temperatures. New FDA and state regulations have minimized the likelihood of having vibrio be found in consumer facing products. When it's detected in the water, oyster farms are required to cease harvest and recall potential product at risk. I'll give you a frame of reference here though. The rate of vibrio illness is still significantly less than other foodborne illnesses out there, such as salmonella and e.coli. So, even though this breakout sounds scary, just consider this, you are more likely to get sick by eating a salad or a burger. Unfortunately, there's no way for a consumer to tell whether or not an oyster has vibrio. We need to rely on our oyster farmers, distributors, and restaurateurs to do their jobs well, and make sure that they carefully store and handle the oysters. You can minimize your risk by only sticking to oyster establishments that have a good reputation for high-quality seafood. Ask where the oysters are from, and when they were harvested. If you have oysters at home, don't leave them out in the sun. This isn't meant to scare you out of eating raw oysters altogether, but it's really to help you understand why it's all the more important to know where your food is coming from. Hopefully by the end of this class, you'll have all the information you need to make great choices. 3. Types of Oysters: In North America, we eat five different species of oysters. However, most of the oysters you see at an Oyster bar are variations on two different species. The native Atlantic oyster or also known as Crassostrea Virginica, and the Pacific oyster, scientifically known as Crassostrea gigas. So, here I have a couple examples of these two species. You'll notice that the Atlantic oyster, the Virginica, has a signature teardrop shape. This is one, and this is another kind. The bottom shell should be smooth and in uniform color, which ranges from brown to white to a light green. This one is a Plymouth Rock oyster from ducks very Bay Massachusetts, notice it's really nice white shell, and here we have a broad water oyster from the Chesapeake in Virginia. These are both from the same species. But depending on where and how they're grown, there'll be shaped a little bit different. In North America, they're grown up and down the east coast, from as north as New Brunswick Canada down to the Gulf of Mexico. Pacific oysters on the other hand, are naturally more elongated and have baggage fluted edges. Although they grow faster than Atlantic oysters, you probably won't see the larger meets on the US menus. Most of the larger oysters are actually exported to Asia. They grow in a spectrum of colors and some genetic strains produce really interesting stripes and patterns on the shells. They're grown as far north as Alaska and as far south as Baja Mexico. The flavors of the Atlantic and Pacific oysters are really going to depend upon where they come from. So, it's actually not that productive to describe generally what they're going to taste like. However, from my experience, I can say that Virginica oysters and Atlantic oysters tend to be more light-bodied, clean, and a little bit buttery. Whereas, the Pacific oyster is going to be more medium-bodied, creamy, sweet with cucumber, and melon notes. So, here's the Kumamoto oyster, which has its own specific species. Also scientifically known as Crassostrea sikamea. The Pacific and Kumamoto species are native to Japan and we're introduced to the US in 1920's and 40's respectively to supplement the growing demand for oysters. True Kumamoto oysters are small and have a deep cuts shell. They have distinctive ridges on the cap side that resemble a cat's paw. Kumamoto are characterized by their mild brininess, creamy body, and crispy cucumber finish. They are almost candy like, which makes them really approachable for beginners. Next, we have the Olympia oyster right here, which is native to the North American West Coast. These little oysters were almost wiped out during the peak of the Gold Rush. Fortunately, the Olympias or Oly's are making a comeback and are now commercially available again. Although it's still quite rare to see them on East Coast menus. These oysters are really tiny but don't be deceived by its small size, the meat packs a punch of smoky, savory, and coppery notes. Finally, we have a species that is native to Europe, scientifically known as Ostrea Edulis. Also known as the European flat oyster. They are often referred to by the French name, Belon, Although true Belons technically come from a particular area of Brittany in northern France. Only about 5,000 Belons are harvested in mmmmaine each year, making them an exceptionally rare oyster. They are large and round with a relatively shallow cup and a beautifully scallop shapeed shell, tinged with vibrant green from the areas algae. Belons are famous for their bold unapologetic taste, which some people love and some people hate. Basically, they're not a very good beginners oyster. The flavor is powerful and the texture is firm and meaty. The most distinctive quality about their taste is they are potent, coppery, tannic finish. Most of that oysters we eat today are still named after the place that they're grown. Oysters are unique food because they embody a sense of a place. Climatic conditions play a huge role in how oysters taste, everything matters from the salinity of the water to the temperature, to the amount of sunlight, and the presence of mountains and minerals. Even the tiniest factors can make an oyster tasted distinctive from an oyster that is grown 50 meters away. The French term terroir, is often used in wine to describe this idea. However, it's been adapted to talk about oysters, which is known as meroir. Throughout this course, I'm going to ask you to keep an oyster journal of your latest and greatest adventures. By actively evaluating and writing down your tasting experiences, you'll be able to develop a better palatte for oysters. All you need is a piece of paper, a small notebook or a text editor. 4. How Oysters Are Grown: Hey guys, welcome back to class. So, in the first unit I had said that 95% of oysters are farmed, and you're probably wondering, farms where? How? Well, in this unit, I'm going to give you a basic overview about where oysters come from, and how they're grown. So, oysters thrive naturally in estuaries which is where salt water from the ocean mixed with freshwater from the mouths of rivers and streams. Some of the largest bays in North America onced contain millions of oysters, San Francisco Bay, Chesapeake Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, and especially this area surrounding New York City. The Lower Hudson estuary once contained over 350 square miles of oyster reefs, and some biologists even estimates that the New York Harbor contained over half the world's oyster population. Unfortunately, the vast majority of wild oyster reefs around the world have been decimated due to overharvest and pollution. In North America, only the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico still harvest wild oysters in a carefully managed situation. So, what's the difference between a farmed oyster and a wild oyster? Well, unlike other farmed fish oysters minimally impact marine resources, they don't really need to be fed anything else except for the phytoplankton that's already in the water. So, because of that, in theory a farmed oyster and wild oyster might taste the same if they were grown in the same place. However, farmed oysters really live the good life, they are super pampered, they're protected, they're given plenty of real estate to grow, and they just grow up to be really fat and happy, whereas Wild oysters might struggle a little bit to survive in nature. It will be quite rare to find a wild oyster that will taste just as meaty and sweet as a farmed oyster. Wild and farmed oysters might also look different from each other. Farmed oysters are harvested for the half shell market which means that they are cultivated for really pretty manicured shells. Whereas wild oysters might be a little bit rough around the edges, because they're just sort of chilling out in nature and you don't really know what you're going to get. Whether an oyster is farmed or wild, both are extremely beneficial to the environment. Oysters are considered to be a keystone species, which means that they play a critical role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem, adult oysters can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day cleaning and improving water quality, while providing habitat for small aquatic creatures. Growing oysters is half-science, half-art, and entirely a labor of love. The oysters that we eat can take anywhere between one and a half to three years to reach market size, some oysters might take between four to six years to reach their full potential. The process of growing oysters first begins with creating baby oyster seed in a hatchery, or collecting naturally set oyster seed in the wild. In order for oysters to spawn in the wild, they must consume enough algae to create enough energy, to create the gonad which can be either eggs or sperm. Yup I said or, this means at any one time an oyster can be male or female, and in some rare cases they can contain both male and female reproductive parts. Interestingly, oysters can change their sex during their lifetime and then back again, this change is said to be related to environmental conditions. Femaleness being favored in years with good food supply. Are you curious about how oysters get in the mood? They take their cues from the environment such as, increase in water temperature, the salinity, and the amount of food present. And then, the oyster sperm and eggs are released into the water and it is all left out to chance then. In hatcheries these conditions are simulated in large tanks, they might also put on a little moon music and lighting to get them going. So, fertilized oyster eggs are going to float around in the water until they find a place to settle, and by the way this is the only time when oysters can move freely about. Once they settle on something, they're going to cement themselves to it and stay there forever, until something or someone moves them around. In the wild, their ideal home is on top of another oyster. I guess they figure if one oyster was here before it's probably not a bad spot to be in. In the lab, scientists will lay out a bed of crushed oyster shells for the oyster larvae to land on known as colch, these young oysters known as spat will begin their lives here. To the naked eye, one million baby oysters is going to look like a handful of sand, although they're only two millimeters long, if you look at them under a microscope they actually look like miniature oysters. In modern oyster farming the next step is called upwelling, this means that the baby oysters are released into underwater mesh silos called upwellers. This is basically a contraption that forces nutrient filled waters from the bay to go through and up the oysters, giving them a never ending food supply, the oysters will then double in size for the next several weeks. So, once they grow to be about a quarter of an inch, they're taken out of the upweller and put in a nursery. The nursery is a system of cages and mesh bags which are designed to help juvenile oysters grow and protect them from predators. They're kept in the nursery until they grow to be about two inches, after that, the grow up method will vary from farm to farm. Some growers will choose to grow their oysters out on the bottom of the bay, whereas others will probably keep them in cages and floating bags closer to the surface, others especially on the west coast will use a series of long lines and cages that dropped out into the water column. It really depends on what kind of environment the oyster farm is operating on, and how cost effective it is for each farmer. During the grow up period, oysters are often graded and then tumbled. Tumbling is a method used to help oysters grow a deep cupped shell, and plush plump meat. The Art of tumbling can be tricky though, if you do it too aggressively it can lead to increased mortality. So, the growers have to be pretty careful about how they tumble and how often. And lastly, once they finally reach market size, they're harvested by hand or by a machine like a dredge, and then they are put into bags of either 100 or 120 counts. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears goes into and creating the perfect oyster, visiting an oyster farm is a must-do for any oyster enthusiast. This lengthy process will come to life and sync and once you see it for yourself. A question that I often get asked is, do oysters have seasonality? You've probably heard of the r rule which states that you shouldn't eat oysters during months without an r in it. That's because, in the month of May, June, July, and August the water temperature tends to be pretty high on the East Coast, so Atlantic's oysters are spawning. And spawning oysters can be eaten, but they're not very tasty, so people decide just to stay away from them. Today, some oysters are bred not to reproduce at all, instead of spending the energy on making babies, they eat. So, they're actually quite meaty and plump all year round, these oysters are known as triploids to oyster farmers, but the distinction isn't made clear for consumers. If you want to find out whether they're triploids or not, just as when they're available, if someone tells you that they're available all year round there probably triploids. So, long story short, oysters can be enjoyed year round but that doesn't mean every kind of oyster is going to be available throughout the year. I personally liked to eat my oysters in colder months between October and December, that's when they're really the fullest and the sweetest. However, you can also find some really great gems between January and March, and in the summertime it's nice to look forward to some really hardy gigas oysters from New Zealand. When it's summer here, it's winter down there which helps them produce meaty, browny and buttery oysters. 5. Going Out for Oysters: Hey guys, we're at Chelsea Market in New York City. In this unit, I'm going to show you how to set yourself up for the best oyster outing possible. There are many kinds of establishment that offer raw oysters and each has their own unique vibe. But regardless of ambience or approach, here are four things that you should look out for in a solid oyster bar. Number one, is having a flowing supply. That means your oyster menu should be constantly changing, which is a great sign of high turnover, which is actually good for oysters, and it means that you're going to get the freshest product possible. Number two, is having an open display. I think the best oyster bars are very proud to display their product. They'll be clearly labeled and get chilled over ice. Number three is having a skilled shucker. Like the oyster display, the best oyster bars are going to showcase their shuckers up front and center. They're going to shuck your oysters on demand, to ensure that you have the freshest product. They're also going to remove grit and broken shell from the oyster, discard any dead oysters, and make sure not to scramble the meat. Number four, is having informed service. Last but most importantly of all, is having a knowledgeable staff. Sometimes the difference between having a good oyster experience and a phenomenal one, is the interactions you have with the resident oyster expert. If you're by yourself or with one other friend, it's really good to sit at the oyster bar. You're more likely to engage in conversations with the shucker, or the resident oyster expert. If you have a party of three or more, it's probably easier for all of you guys to sit out a table. Next, let's talk about the oyster menu. There are several layers of information that you're likely going to see. The first layer is simply the name of the oyster, which traditionally reflects the area or region that it came from. It's worth noting that one oyster name doesn't necessarily correlate to a single grower. Many growers could sell their product under one name if it's not trademarks. In recent years, there has been an explosion of proprietary oyster brands, that are intended to sound more specialized and consumer friendly. Having a branded oyster helps both the grower and the customer, because it actually allows us to know exactly where the oyster is coming from. More transparency and accountability in oysters will ensure safer consumption. The second piece of information you're going to see is where the oysters are coming from. This is usually identified by a State or a Canadian province. Some menus will be even more specific and name the body of water that the oyster was grown in. In the US, you can also find oysters from New Zealand or Mexico on the menu sometimes, and they're really wonderful to try. Lastly, you might be given some baseline characteristics about the oyster. This will include size, salinity, flavor profile, and texture. Although helpful, take this information with a grain of salt. Oyster flavors tend to fluctuate throughout the year, kind of like different vintages of the same wine. So, be your own judge of things. How many oysters should you order? The simple answer is, as many as you'd like. But if you want to conduct an oyster tasting I would recommend picking three to six varieties to start with. Order two of each kind to get the fullest sense of the oyster. I found that when you try over 12 varieties at the same time, your palate and your brain tends to get a little overwhelmed and exhausted. So, how do you decide what kinds of oysters to order? If you're just starting out or you don't know what you like, I would recommend getting a mix of East and West Coast oysters of different sizes. But it's also good to consider where you are. Ordering oysters that are local to you is always a good strategy. When people ask me what are the best oysters to try, I always prioritize freshness over flavor profile. However, it's always fun to try new kinds and I really encourage you guys to try as many varieties as possible, and to retry ones that you didn't love the first time around. It is recommended to organize your oyster flight from mild to strong flavors, and this makes sense just so that you don't overwhelm your palate immediately. The restaurants should already have this in mind, so you don't need to worry about ordering your oysters in the right order. They should be able to recommend a nice progression for your tasting. Speaking of, it's always okay to ask questions and for recommendations along the way, such as how fresh are the oysters? A lot of bars will tell you that the oysters came in today or yesterday, but that's not really the answer you want. What you want to know is when the oysters are harvested, and that information is available on a tiny little bag tag that is attached to every single bag of oysters. Oyster bars and retailers are required by law to have this information on hand to show you. Also, be sure to ask your observer, or oyster specialist for recommendations. But don't just say, what is the best oyster that you have? It's kind of like asking a wine sommelier, what is the best wine? Instead, let them know what your preferences are, whether you will prefer your oysters to be more briny and meaty, or delicate and sweet. If you're feeling extra daring, ask for the most complex or unique oyster to try. Now, here are my thoughts on dollar oyster specials. While it's a great way to enjoy oysters without spending a fortune, not all dollar oyster specials are created equal. I would recommend sticking to specials offered by oyster establishments rather than bars and restaurants that don't specialize in oysters. You're more likely to get fresher higher quality product that way. A lot of restaurants will offer only one or two varieties on their dollar special, and that's fine, if you're looking to just eat some oysters, but it's not that exciting when you want to try a lot of varieties. There are some restaurants or bars that offer their entire oyster menu on dollar special. For example, Cull and Pistol at Chelsea Market does just that during the week days. Once you're comfortable with oyster tasting on its own, you can add another level to the experience by introducing beverage pairings. Traditionally, oysters pair really well with crisp dried light-bodied white wine, such as Chablis, Savignon Blanc, or Muscadet. However, sometimes the acidity of the wine tends to overpower the delicate braininess of the oyster. Oyster in wine matchmaking should be a fun and exciting trial and error process. Another classic pairing is with a cold dry champagne. I really like the texture play around this, as the bubbles from the champagne, really brings up the effervescence of the oysters, plus, it makes for a fantastic party theme. If you want a more laid back and relaxed pairing, I would recommend doing a cold and crisp light beer, like a lager or pilsner. Some oyster lovers swear by pairing them with cheap light beers, but others really like a dark smooth stout like a Guinness. Another great pairing that is currently underutilized is oysters with sake. The delicate and soft nature of premium-grade sakes, will take your light bodied west-coast oysters to a whole other level. The mineralogy in some styles of sake, go really elegantly with the Kumamoto or a Kushi oyster. Lastly, if you want to try a strong expressive pairing, experiment with the briny cocktail or whiskey. I'm not a huge spirits drinker, so I'd be really curious to see what you find out. 6. Tasting Oysters: In this unit, I'm going to teach you how to taste oysters and by that, I don't mean just eat oysters but actually taking the time and appreciate what makes each oyster so unique. Oyster tasting is kind of like wine tasting. So, if you're a wine lover, a lot of this will be familiar to you. Oyster tasting is pretty subjective and takes time to develop. It's really important to keep an open mind and pay attention to the progression of flavors and textures. Try at least one, if not all of them, naked. This means that you should refrain from using accompaniments like lemon or horseradish, cocktail sauce, or Mignonette sauce. Those all tend to mask the oyster's natural flavors or its more raw. The best oysters will not need anything extra. So, now we're going to talk about the six S's of oyster tasting. So, my friend Cassandra and I are here at Cull & Pistol in Chelsea Market in New York City and we're going to do an oyster tasting for you guys. So, number one is See. Eat with your eyes first. Take a good look at the oysters, and notice the shapes and the colors of the oyster bodies. All the oysters should actually look quite hydrated, which means that there should be liquid in the shell. If any oysters look very dry to you, definitely send it back and ask for replacements. Some of them will have gorgeous black mantles and others will have plump white bellies. Number two, is Smell. So, take a good whiff of these oysters. The aroma should be sweet and sea breezy, not fishy at all. If it smells a little bit off, consult your waiter or just ask for a replacement. Number three is Sip. Take your oyster and sip the liquor from the shell. It should taste pretty salty. Do not make the faux pas of pouring the liquid out. It's actually a great part of the tasting. The salinity that you taste in the oyster will greatly depend on the salinity of the water that it came from. So, if the water that it came from is more fresh water than sea water, then the oyster will taste a little bit brackish. If the oyster is closer to sea water and it tastes like it's coming right out of the sea, you can describe it as being ultra briny. Brininess is a term to describe the ocean-like or marine qualities of an oyster. So, number four is Slurp. Shimmy the oyster so that it falls loose out of the shell. The bottom adductor muscles should be cut. If not, just make sure you see scrape it out with your cocktail fork. Once the oyster is loose from the shell, just bring it to your lips and then tilt back and slurp it. So good. Delicious. Number five is Savor. Make sure you chew the meat and notice the progression of flavors in your mouth. Take note of the transition of the flavors and the overall complexity of the meat. Here are some ways to describe your oysters. The immediate brininess will soon give way to a body of the oyster, which can tastes fruity, sweet, vegetal, minerally, earthy, Mushroomy, and nutty. The fresher the oyster, the more lively and bright the taste will be. Some oysters will evoke very minerally and savory flavors that remind you of cured meats. The finish can either be clean, crisp or pungent and lingering. Textures or mouthfeel will range from silky, pillowy, creamy to firm, meaty and almost crunchy. So, the oyster may make a last impression that is sweet, buttery, metallic or even slightly bitter. Number six is Share. Once you're done with your oyster, turn the shell over and take a good look. Then you should write down your notes in your oyster journal or compare them with the person that you're having an oyster tasting with. So, what did you think of those oysters? They were delicious. Where they salty or sweet? These were more salty. This one was a little buttery. That's why I thought, too. These were actually very clean in the finish, which is really nice. You can use any of these words to describe how your oyster tastes and make sure you know the beginning, middle, and the end of the oyster tasting. Now that you're finished with that oyster, take another one of the same kind and try it again. The flavors might actually be a little bit different from the first time. 7. Visiting the Lobster Place: Going out for oysters is great but what if you don't live near an Oyster Bar. Even if you do, it can get pretty expensive. A great affordable way to enjoy your oysters, is to buy them yourself and shock them at home. It's actually easier than you think it is. In this in class, I will teach you how. Then, in the next class, I'm going to show you how to shock them. If you live in a large city, your best buy is to go to a seafood retailer or wholesaler. I'm here at the lobster place in Chelsea Market in New York, one of the biggest seafood retailers in New York City. They will have the widest selection and probably the freshest produce you can find plus, they will have the most knowledgeable people to help you select the best ones. These companies receive shipments of oysters daily but not of every kind. So, it's always good to ask what their shipments schedule is to make sure you know what came in that day. If you wants to buy in bulk, it never hurts to ask your fish monger or wholesaler to place a special shipment in for you. They probably won't advertise this in the store, but they might do so online. If you live in a smaller town, your first instinct might be to go to a supermarket. Although, the prices might be more reasonable there, the quality is going to be up in the air. I personally never had much success buys ultra fresh oysters from a grocer in New York, no matter how high end they tend to be, but it might be different elsewhere. So, this is especially when you need to be a diligent shopper. Farmers markets can also be a great place to find fresh live oysters. Growers will come in and probably sell bags of 25, 50 to 100, and it's not really uncommon to see bags of 100 oysters $400. A new trendier way to buy your oysters is through a private oyster share, or community-supported oyster program. This means that you pre-order your oysters at near wholesale prices with the farm and then have them delivered to you once they're ready to harvest. It is a pretty cool way to support your local oyster community but be sure to check the terms before committing. Especially, find out what happens if they don't have a good crop that year. Regardless of where you buy your oysters from, it's always worth it to ask for a sample or two of each kind before you commit to a dozen. It's better to test the product right then in there instead of having to discover you receive crappy oysters later at home. Oyster should be kept on ice or in a temperature-controlled environments. However, they should not be submerged in ice water because that actually kills them. If you see gaping shells but don't close when you tap on them, that means the oyster is dead and really should be discarded immediately. Lastly, and this is more for your convenience, the size and shape of the shells do matter. You should be able to identify where the hinges so that you can shock it easily, and wart shells tend to be harder to shock as well. Large oysters that are over four inches will also be difficult to shock but they will be perfect for chart grilling. If possible, ask to pick one up. It should feel heavy insubstantial in your hands. You can knock two oysters together and listen for the sound it sounds hollow or it has like a clanking sounds, that means that oyster is not very good and on the verge of death, if not already dead. A healthy hydrated oyster, will actually make a higher pitched sound almost like knocking two rocks together. Talk to the seller. They should really know what they're talking about and know that you mean business. Always asked about the harvest date. As I mentioned before, they are required by law to keep the bag tag on hand to show you. Oysters can live up to two weeks out of the water but the sooner you consume them the better. If the seller isn't a grower, ask if they know which oyster farm they came from. Unlike other seafoods that have limited traceability, oysters actually come from a very specific place and a set of people. I believe that oyster growers should be recognized for their high-quality products. Once you've made your purchase, the seller will probably stash your oysters in a plastic bag. Oysters need to breathe, so make sure your seller punches holes through the bag before you carry them out. They might even give you an ice pack to put in to keep your oysters cool on the way home. If you're not planning to eat your oysters immediately, you should store them in a cool moist place. Your kitchen refrigerator is a great place to keep them and I will show you later on how to store them at home. Another way to order oysters is through the internet. Ordering them directly from an oyster farm ensures that you're getting the freshest product possible and one that passes through the least number of hands. Shipping a box of oysters cross-country can be quite costly. So, I still prefer to buy the oysters from the coasts that are closest to you. Two-day shipping is fine in the wintertime. But, in the summertime, I would recommend getting overnight. Buying seafood online might sound strange but new business models have allowed consumers to get fresh affordable deliveries right at home. I'm a fan of I Love Bluesea, which is an online seafood platform that allows consumers to work directly with oyster growers. They offer a wide range of oysters from around the country including this awesome monthly oyster sampler subscription. You can check them out by visiting tinyurl.com/buyoysters. 8. How to Shuck Oysters: In this unit, I'm going to demonstrate how to shuck the perfect oyster. Knowing this skill is going to be one of the biggest game changing lessons in this class. Having good technique is going to help you save time and energy, keep your oysters looking pretty, and helps keep your hands safe. When you're shucking oysters there are a few things that you should pay attention to, number one is having the right equipment. I've seen people use butter knives, steak knives, and screwdrivers while opening oysters, but that will ultimately lead to accidents. What you want to use is a knife that is specifically designed for opening oysters. Here's the knife that I like to use in most situations. It's made by Dexter Russell and it has a four-inch blade and it's pretty narrow. I like using this knife because it's easier to grip and feels pretty stable in my hand. It is also very versatile for all different kinds of oysters. Many styles of oyster knives have been developed. Take this for example which is another kind of oyster knife. It has a much shorter blade and it's very pointed. Ultimately, your oyster knife is going to come down to personal preference. So, whatever you're most comfortable using is the best tool to have. You really don't need a fancy oyster knife to get the job done. In fact, most of these knives are going to retail between 10 to 20 bucks. Next, you should find a nice stable surface to work off of, one that doesn't slip. A wooden cutting board is perfect or if you want, use a large pizza pan. I personally like to use this specially designed oyster shucking board, it's called the half-sheller and it's made by a company called Little Dear. What I like about it is that, it has this groove in the middle that helps keep your oyster stable while you can put your palm here to protect it. You'll also want to have a kitchen towel on hand, one that you don't mind getting wet or smelly. You'll also need a plate to put your shucked oysters on if you're going to present them to other people. Having a small dish of water also helps to keep your oyster knife clean. When you're shucking, you can occasionally dip it in the water to remove any mud or grit. Ice is also a pretty good thing to have on hand to keep your oysters cool, but it's not absolutely necessary if you decide to eat your oysters right then and there. Crushed ice is better than cubed ice because it helps keep the oysters secure. Step one is to clean your oyster. If you see mud or grit on your shell, just use a small vegetable brush and scrub it off. You can rinse this in tap water but don't soak them in tap water. The technique that I'm going to use in shucking these oysters is called a tabletop method, that means that you're going to place the oysters on a flat surface and shuck on the table. Another method to do this is to shuck an oyster in your hands, you've probably seen the pros do it but it's actually not very good for beginners because a lot of accidents can happen. If you choose to try to do this, what you want is to have the blade parallel to your hand and not into your hand, that can actually cause a lot of accidents and you don't want that to happen. If you're going to shuck in your hand, it's always a good idea to wear a glove, don't risk just shucking bare handed. Step two is to place your oyster on a flat surface or in my case it's going to be the half-sheller. You're going to cover your oyster with a towel or use a glove to protect your hand. Step three is to shimmy your knife blade into the hinge. The hinges right here at the tip of this oyster where the top and bottom shells connect. You're going to wiggle your knife in to the hinge. Using a little bit of force, you keep wiggling your knife into the hinge of the oyster until you feel like it's set. You know that it's set when you can raise your oyster knife and the oyster comes with you and it doesn't really move anywhere. So then after this, twist your oyster knife as if you were opening a door knob, so like this and you're going to hear that pop. Which means the top shell and the bottom shell have been disconnected. When you're opening your oyster, do not do this up and down motion because it can actually break the top part of the shell. So step four, is to use your knife and lift the edge as much as possible. You're going to feel like the oyster is still stuck to the top shell because of the adductor muscle. What you want to do then is you take the edge of the blade and you slide it across the top shell. This is another example, if you can look in there, the meat is still stuck onto the top shell. So, what you want do is you take your knife blade and you scrape along the top shell to cut the adductor muscle. Like so. So, once you cut the adductor muscle, you can take off the top shell and you're left with a really nice oyster body in the bottom shell. Make sure that you try to retain as much oyster liquid as possible, this is going to be really important during the oyster tasting. So, step five is removing the top shell that you just severed and putting it aside. Then you are left with this oyster, and now you just remove any grit or mud out of the shell. This is where a bowl of water can come in handy to rinse off your oyster knife. Step six is to cut the bottom adductor muscle. How you do this is, you use your oyster knife and move it below the oyster meat and you slide your knife across the bottom of the shell like so. This is going to cut that muscle and separate the oyster from its shell. Now, it's just hanging out. Some shuckers will actually turn the meat over inside the shell so that the bottom belly is showing up. This is handy if you've made noticeable cuts into your meat and you want to make sure your oysters look plump and pretty. There's also a natural suction between the oyster meat and oyster shell even though you've cut the adductor muscle. So, turning it over is going to help make slurping a lot easier. Lastly, you're going to still have clear oyster liquor inside the shell. If the liquid is cloudy, it can mean two things: number one is the oyster is spawning or number two is, you actually cut through the heart and the oyster blood is mixing with the seawater. Either way, it's actually still okay to eat although a spawning oyster may not taste very good. Oyster blood is totally fine to consume. If you're shucking for a party, here are a few ways to present your newly opened oysters. The first thing is using your top shell and place it down as a stand and putting your oysters on it like so, that way you can actually see both the meat and the top shell which gives it a nice effect. You can also put your oysters on a bed of ice. Lastly, you can also use one of these half-shellers or another oyster plate to put your oysters on. So, if you're having an oyster party, you probably will want to have some accompaniments on hand. For me, I really like to just have simple lemon wedges because it just adds a little bit of acidity to the oyster. You can also do a classic French Charlotte mignonette which is really easy to buy or make at home. Lastly, you can try some freshly grounded black pepper on your oysters to give it a little bit of kick. I personally avoid using horseradish, Tabasco sauce or cocktail sauce because I think those tend to mask the natural flavors of the oyster. However, if your oysters are pretty mild or if you're literally having two dozen of the same kind, it's not a bad thing to have a mix of accompaniments on hand. By the way, if you want to know how to prepare the lemon, I do it really simply. I just cut it in half and then in quarters and then an eighth and then you'll be able to get eight wedges out of one lemon. Once you have your lemon, all you need to do is just take the wedge and squeeze a little bit onto the oyster. Don't drown the oyster in lemon juice because that's going to be really overpowering. The lemon wedges can also make your platter of oysters really pretty but for me I always like to taste the oysters at least once without anything at all. Another more decadent thing that you can do with West Coast oysters especially is to top it off with a little dollop of cream fresh and American caviar. It's pretty baller. You've brought your oysters home, now it's either time to eat them or store them away. You should store your oysters in a cool moist place. Your kitchen refrigerator is actually a perfect place to store live oysters, just make sure the temperature is no less than 35 and no greater than 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Any lower than 35 is going to actually freeze your oysters and kill them and to keep your oysters alive makes sure that they're able to breathe, never put them in an airtight container. Instead, simply place your oysters in a deep set dish or bowl like this. What you want to do is you set your oysters inside the tray or bowl with the top side up and the cup side down, like so. This will help the oyster retain its natural liquor. You can also stuff the oysters if you really need to. Next soak a clean kitchen towel under cold tap water. Cover the top of the oysters with the towel and then place your oysters in the refrigerator. Periodically, check to make sure that your oysters are not dead. Any oysters that don't close its shell, you should discard immediately. For the most part, all of your oyster shells should be closed. For the best tasting oysters, you should consume them as soon as possible. Oysters can live out of the water for up to two weeks but they probably won't taste as good by the end of the second week. 9. Traveling for Oysters: Hey guys, so you made it to the last class. I thought it would be cool to start off with one of my favorite oyster quotes, from Peter Jon Lindberg, ''Rare is the culture that doesn't love oysters. They are everywhere. But they're also decidedly somewhere: within its singular shell, each oyster carries its provenance like a fingerprint. Knocking one back is like mainlining the cove it came from.'' So, in this final unit, I'm going to talk about traveling for oysters. What's the point of traveling for oysters you might ask? For me I discovered that the best oyster experiences are the ones where you can go out there and eat them right at the source. You really can't get any fresher than just taking them out of the water and serving them right then in there. It's also a beautiful way to see the landscape where they're from. Because the oysters that we consume are from pristine waters, these oyster farms tend to be in the most beautiful water escapes in the world. I have visited oyster farms on both East and West Coasts and as well as abroad in Ireland and Japan. It's always fun to compare the different growing methods and how it affects the taste of the oyster. Depending on which coasts you are closer to, you have several options to investigate. Many oyster farms offer tours to the public during the warmer months and they also might have special activities such as picnic areas and kayaking. I've included a list of them in the project steps. Raw oyster culture isn't just thriving in America, but it's booming everywhere. So, if you're watching this from outside the States, you're awesome. Having tried oysters from 15 countries and across six continents, I can assure you that there's some really awesome oysters out there. It's really hard to pick a favorite though, but I would say that going to Galway Bay in Ireland and slurping a European Native right out of the water, has to be one of the best things ever. When it comes to international oysters, you have to travel for them. There are hundreds of varieties of oysters around the world but most of them aren't able to be imported into the US due to FDA regulations. Outside of the US there are some other great oyster producing countries, such as: Ireland, Great Britain, France, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Japan. If you're travelling to a major city such as, London, Paris, Hong Kong or Tokyo, you shouldn't have a problem finding a really reputable oyster bar. I've included a list of my favorites for this class. Here are some things to know when you're having oysters abroad. Number one, is terminology. Though in Western Europe, they produce and consume two species of oysters. The first is the European flat or what they call the natives and the other is the Pacific gigas which they call rock oysters. In France, the European native oysters are called plates and the gigas oysters are called creuses. Fines is a designation that means small to medium, it's determined by a complicated calculation that only the French understand. Speciales is on the other side of the spectrum. This means that the oysters are larger and more fleshy. These oysters gorge on nutrient filled waters that might even turn their gills green on the inside. Speciales de claires are oysters grown 10 to the square yard. They are matured for at least two months which allow them to grow fatter and more substantial than the fines de claires. Pousses en claire are oysters grown five to the square yard. These highly prized oysters grow for at least three to four months and double in weight during that time. They are the creme de la creme of oysters. So, now let's talk about sizing. In France, oysters are categorized in price by weight. The grade ranges from triple zero to six. Triple zero, is the largest size and six is the smallest. Now, let's talk a little bit about pricing. European natives are probably the most expensive oysters you're going to encounter, because they're the hardest to grow and take the longest time. Gigas oysters are going to be more reasonable, but it depends on whether they are locally grown or imported. Locally harvested oysters will cost less than imports. Now the next thing you should know about is the purification. This is the process that many countries require in order to bring in their seafood safely. The depurification process ensures that the oysters are free of harmful bacterias and pathogens. However, this isn't really great for the oysters taste, because they'll end up tasting the same. Finally, here are some tips about oyster etiquette. In France, they typically don't cut the bottom adductor muscles of the oyster. This is to ensure that the oyster is definitely fresh when it reaches your plate. So, in order to remove the adductor muscles, just use your cocktail fork and scrape the whole thing off. How well you can scrape off the adductor muscle is kind of a test to see whether or not you're a true oyster fan. In Japan, true oyster lovers I've created a special expression to show their appreciation for oysters. What they do in photos is cupping the hand like a C and saying kaki oy-C. Oishii in Japanese means delicious, and so when you say kaki oy-C, it means you have delicious oysters. Cupping your hand into a C, it means that you're doing a cheers. So, in photos when you're doing C and kaki oy-C, it always helps make you smile. So, when you go to Japan and you have some oysters, make sure you do kaki oy-C in order to show that you are a true oyster fan. So, now we're at the end of the class and thank you so much for taking it. I really hope that you've learned some new skills and knowledge that you can apply to any half-shell experience and make it better. 10. More Culinary Classes on Skillshare: