Are you not impressed?!
We live in a world where you can (and you should) fry just about anything, and oysters are no exception to that rule. A typically polarizing seafood appetizer, raw or steamed oysters are not loved by everyone, and even those that do love them sometimes have to train their palates to truly appreciate the taste and texture. Even still, these salty, watery bivalves don’t sit well with everyone’s taste buds.
If you’re team Anti-Oyster, (first of all, BOO) I’m here to tell you that you should definitely fry them.* Encased in a warm, crispy shell of deep-fried goodness, this iteration of oysters has a little bit more forgiveness towards a tongue that’s easily skeeved out by a slimy texture (can’t relate…). There’s still a small, unfortunate percentage of folks that can’t get behind a fried oyster, and I truly wish them all the best (but pity their misled palate). After all, isn’t this cooking method the easiest way to make anything taste better? Yes, yes it is. The good news is that this process is way easier than it may initially seem—so you have no excuse not to give it a whirl.
First, you need...oysters. Shocking, I know. Don’t get too caught up in West Coast vs. East Coast here. Look your fishmonger in the eyes and tell him you’re frying oysters. To that, he/she will reply, “say no more,” and you will exit with an icy bag of live! molluscs! Congrats, friend. Make sure all the shells are tightly closed (if they are open, the oyster is dead), and keep your precious purchase over ice until you use them. Give the shells a good scrub and rinse under cold water.
Now, we shuck. You’ll need an oyster knife, or any kitchen tool that is dull-pointed, thick-bladed, and strong enough to pry open the shell. It’s not as treacherous as it sounds, I promise. Use a kitchen towel to secure the oyster on your work surface and protect your hand that’s not holding the knife. Gently insert the knife into the hinge of the oyster and poke around until you feel a spot where you’ve got some leverage. This will take some practice and adjusting to, but once you get in a groove, you’ll be...GROOVING. Wiggle the knife until you feel the top and bottom shells unhinge, where at this point, you’ll run the knife up and down the entire oyster, separating it completely. Finesse, not force.
Once it’s open, glide your knife along the connective muscle, detaching the oyster from it’s shell. Slide the oyster into a cold, shallow bowl of buttermilk (enough so that it’s submerged), and repeat until all of your oysters are shucked. Once they’ve sat in the buttermilk, it’s time to coat them in flour. In a large bowl, combine equal parts flour and cornmeal with whatever spices you like. Paprika, chili pepper, Old Bay, and cayenne all work great, but just make sure that at the very least, you’re adding salt and pepper. Once your oysters are coated in flour, place them on a wire rack set atop a sheet pan.
To deep fry them, you’ll need to get a saucepan about ⅓-½ of the way full with a neutral flavored frying oil, like canola or peanut. If you have a candy thermometer, you’ll know your oil is hot enough when it reaches 375 degrees. If not, you can use the handle of a wooden spoon to check. If you dip the spoon in and the oil gently sizzles, it’s ready to go. Work in batches of 3-5, depending on the size of your pot and oysters, gently lower the oysters into the oil and let them cook until they’re golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon, and place them on a paper towel-lined tray. Hit them with a sprinkle of salt immediately. Awwwww yeah.
Eat these suckers straight up like the pro that you are, or tuck them inside a baguette-like French bread with some slaw for a Po-Boy-esque experience. Add them into some eggs, or get a little runny yolk action with a fried egg. A couple drops of hot sauce never hurt, either. Whatever vessel (or not) you choose to eat your fried oysters with doesn’t really matter, because at the end of the day, you’re still a mollusc master.
*Obviously, if you’re team OYSTER ALL THE WAY, then you probably don’t need me to tell you to fry ‘em up.