Oysters are one of those foods that people hesitate to cook for fear of doing wrong. After all, they aren’t quite your regular store-bought protein.
However, done right, they can taste delicious and the beauty is, you don’t have to be a trained chef to cook them.
Smoked meat can be delicious, juicy, and packed with a wood-smoked flavor. When you think of smoking your proteins, your mind may automatically go to beef, chicken, and pork.
But what if you could smoke oysters instead and liven up your next cook-out? If you are interested in broadening your horizons, you are in the right place. Let’s take a look at how you can smoke oysters.
What you’ll need
You are going to want some quality produce and, as with most proteins, fresh is always best. The freshest oysters tend to be local varieties that have only had to travel a limited distance.
You will also need a smoker. You can use an electric, gas, or charcoal barbeque smoker at home.
For oysters, it is probably best to avoid using a BBQ to smoke them as it is harder to control the temperature, even though they usually give off the most full-bodied flavor.
Electric and gas smokers can be regulated with ease and will smoke your oysters without a problem.
- The first step is to get your smoker ready. If it is new, you will need to cure your smoker before you use it to get rid of any chemicals. Curing the smoker will also add better flavor. Heat the smoker to a high temperature and then let it stay at a lower temperature for several hours. For the oysters, you will need to heat your smoker to a low-medium heat. Be sure to follow all instructions for both the smoker and the wood chips, where provided.
- Next, you will need to get yourself some wood chips to add to your smoker. Your choice of wood chips all comes down to flavor. Make sure that whatever wood you choose is free of chemicals as these will be absorbed by your oysters, ruining the taste and also could produce toxins. You are going to want to choose a harder wood such as hickory, oak, or apple as softer woods can let off too much steam. Once you have decided, add the chips to your smoker.
- Next, prepare and inspect your oysters. Shuck your oysters, discard the top shells while leaving the oyster meat in the bottom shell*. Always check the quality and state of your oysters before smoking them. Make sure that there is not any damage to the shells and that they are not open before preparation. If they open easily, discard them immediately as they are already dead and no longer fresh. If they look dry with a cloudy appearance, there is a good chance that they have gone bad. They should not have a strong, fishy smell to the meat and instead smell more like a gentle sea breeze. The meat should be a fleshy white color and should not look pink, black, grey, or brown. Eating bad oysters can make you sick and can sometimes lead to serious consequences.
- Place your oysters on the wire rack in your smoker and add a small amount of butter to each one. Carefully close your smoker, keep an eye on the temperature, and set a timer. Do not remove the oyster meat from the shell as this will lead to rubbery, overcooked oysters that will lose all of their natural flavors. The shells serve as a miniature bowl that collects all of the flavors from the smoke within the fluid, keeping the oysters moist and tender
*If you prefer your oysters as plain and natural as possible, you can keep them whole when you smoke them.
Place them on the rack as they come and keep them at a low temperature for 1 ½ – 2 hours, or until they just start to open.
Smoking is a slow cooking process that flavors, browns, and gently cooks your protein of choice. The process helps to break down any of the meat fats and makes the meat more juicy and tender (not to mention tasty!).
Unlike most other meats, oysters do not need to be cooked for too long as they will get tough and lose their natural flavor. You are aiming for a gentle, smoky finish to enhance the flavor of the oysters.
You are going to want to use wood chips that have a gentle flavor such as maple or apple.
Keeping the oysters in their bottom shells and placed on a wire rack, smoke them for around 35 – 65 minutes at low heat.
The goal is to not overcook your oysters as they will dry out. When they are ready, the edges of the oyster meat will curl slightly.
The oysters should be evenly spaced out so that the smoke can circulate correctly. The butter should be fully melted and the oysters should be warm but not overly hot.
Make sure you do not spill any of the juices that are in with the oyster meat as that is where a lot of the flavor comes from.
You do not want to heavily season your oysters. The goal is to enhance the natural flavor without overpowering it.
By adding a little butter to each oyster, you will have enough juice inside the shell to keep the oyster tender.
The butter will take on the flavor from the oyster and enhance it with the flavor from the wood chips.
To serve, carefully remove your oysters from your smoker and put them on a plate. You can have the oysters as is, the butter and juice will serve as a kind of sauce.
Normally, oysters are served with cocktail sauce, lemon juice, or mignonette sauce. However, you can add a little of your favorite hot sauce if you want a bit of a kick.
And there you have it- that’s your guide to smoking oysters! Smoked oysters are an easy, tasty, and unique addition to your cooking skills.
They make a great appetizer or side dish for any cook-out and are sure to impress your guests.