Oyster Selection and Storage
Oysters in the shell must be sold live, by law, as all bi-valves must be. They should feel heavy and full of water. Live ones will be tightly clamped shut, or will clamp shut when tapped. Dead oysters will have loose shells and must be discarded along with those which have broken shells. The flavor is best when they are consumed within 24 hours of purchase.
Store live oysters in the shell, large shell-side down, in a mesh bag or in an open container covered with a damp cloth in the refrigerator (no lower than 33 degrees F.) up to five days.
Do not seal live oysters in an airtight container -- they will not be able to breathe and will die.
Never freeze unshelled oysters. You can refrigerate freshly-shelled oysters in their own liquor for two days, but use them as quickly as you can.
Most commercially-available oysters these days have fairly clean shells. However, if you need to clean them, scrub the beards and dirt from the shells while holding them under cold running water before opening them.
When shucking (opening them) oysters, take care to retain the wonderful juice known as liquor. The liquor should be clear, not cloudy, and should not have any sour or unfavorable odor.
Shelled oysters must be pasteurized and canned or frozen before sale. Canned oysters suffer a loss in flavor from live, fresh oysters and are usually used only in cooked dishes. Smoked, canned oysters are great for appetizers.
Canned oysters will have an expiration date and should be stored refrigerated in their liquor in a covered container once opened.
Frozen raw shucked oysters will keep for up to three months. They should be thawed in the refrigerator and then used as you would fresh oysters for cooking.
Cooked oysters should not be frozen, lest you end up with rubber door stoppers. Use leftover refrigerated cooked oysters within three days.
More about Oysters:
• Oyster Cooking Tips
• Why only eat oysters in months with the letter "r"? FAQ
• Oyster Selection and Storage
• Oyster Measures and Equivalents
- Fish & Shellfish
- The New Legal Sea Foods Cookbook
- The New York Times Seafood Cookbook
- The New England Clam Shack Cookbook