What’s the Deal with Oysters?

100 Steps, Cranford

The staff over at 100 Steps Supper Club + Raw Bar knows oysters, so we thought it would be great to get a little “Oysters 101” from the Cranford eatery. Here’s their take on this often intriguing menu item.

Oysters. People love ’em or hate ’em. The tasty bivalves have all sorts of strange reputations and myths about them. New Jersey-based restaurant, 100 Steps Supper Club + Raw Bar, sets out to find the truth behind these seafood delicacies and can help share with readers the benefits of oysters, how to choose a fresh and delicious oyster, and tips on eating, cooking or grilling this summer.

Oyster-eating should be limited to months with an ‘R.’ Due to lack of good refrigeration, oysters used to be off the menu during summer months. But these days, oysters are generally cultivated for all 12 months of the year and when stored properly (refrigerated), they can be eaten and enjoyed all year long.

Oysters all taste the same. For many years, oysters were generally fished, harvested and eaten locally, so few knew of the varieties beyond their immediate shores. Today, oyster lovers are able to enjoy the bivalves from both coasts due to excellent refrigeration and shipment methods. Farmers are also learning about the cultivation of specific varieties. Oysters truly are “what they eat:” so farmers are helping to cultivate sweetness, brininess, and even enhancing different flavor notes in varieties by cultivating oysters in specific water temperatures, with certain food strains, and with other specific environmental factors.

Oysters are dead out of the water: Oysters are alive at harvest, and if properly stored, a live oyster is just as fresh 10 days after harvest as it is one day after harvest. A tightly closed shell, fresh ocean smell, and clear liquid are indicators of the oyster’s freshness. Once shucked open (the shucking motion severs the ligament holding the shell closed) the oyster must be immediately served.

East Coast oysters are big, West Coast oysters are small. The colder the water, the slower oysters grow and the smaller they tend to be at harvest. The more nutrient rich the water, the more flavorful the oyster becomes. So oyster sizes and flavor will vary by region and by coast and by season—you can find smaller and larger oysters on both coasts, and the flavor varies accordingly.

You shouldn’t eat more than a dozen at a time. Americans ate about 50 million pounds of oysters last year. These popular little mollusks can be consumed in large or small quantities: there is no health detriment to eating larger amounts. Oysters contain a variety of vitamins (C, D, B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin)) and in eating just four medium oysters in a sitting you can get your recommended daily allowance of calcium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous and zinc.

Oysters may be an aphrodisiac: Legend has it that Casanova enjoyed several dozen oysters a day, but the science behind their aphrodisiac qualities remains a bit murky. The shuckers at 100 Steps recommend enjoying a few with your loved one and giving it a test!

Take these notes to heart with some oysters at 100 Steps’ Happy Hour,
every Thursday through Saturday at 4 p.m.

Photos and content courtesy 100 Steps Supper Club + Raw Bar.

100 Steps Supper Club + Raw Bar
215 Centennial Avenue