Handling and Preparing Oysters

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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Live oysters can survive for a week or more under moist wraps in the refrigerator, cupped shell down. Up to a point, this holding period can heighten their flavor, since metabolism without oxygen causes savory succinic acid to accumulate in their tissues. Preshucked oysters are rinsed with cold fresh water and then bottled in their subsequent secretions, which should be mostly clear; pronounced cloudiness indicates that the oyster tissues are breaking. Bottled oysters are often subpasteurized (heated to around 120°F/50°C) to delay spoilage while mostly retaining the fresh texture and flavor.