6 Oysters Everyone Needs to Know

© Christina Holmes
By Justine Sterling Posted October 20, 2014

We asked three chefs for the essential oysters that everyone should know. It’s a great cheat sheet to keep on hand for the next time you’re surrounded by oysters at a party—or simply ordering off a menu.

This past weekend, chefs and oyster farmers came together to put on a massive Oyster Bash during the New York City Wine & Food Festival. With different oyster types everywhere, we barely knew where to start. So, we asked three chefs for the essential oysters that everyone should know. It’s a great cheat sheet to keep on hand for the next time you’re surrounded by oysters at a party—or simply ordering off a menu.

East Coast

Fishers Island; Fisher Island, NY
“The oyster has a great brine, a great level salinity,” says chef Ben Pollinger of Oceana. “It’s plump and sweet. Sarah and Steve Malinowski who run the farm do a good job raising the oysters so the shape of the cup is really deep and round and holds the liquor.”

Watch Hill; Rhode Island
“I love Watch Hill,” says Top Chef alum and Catch chef Hung Huynh. “I love how they’re an East Coast oyster, but they’re plump. They’re sweet, they’re big and they have a good balance of sweet and salty. I can cook with them, I can poach them and they still hold their shape where other East Coast oysters don’t.”

Mystic; Connecticut
“You should definitely know mystics because they’re really good,” says Tertulia’s Seamus Mullen. “They’re super briny, really sweet and all around a very nice oyster. Plus, they’re not too big. I’m not a huge fan of the really big oysters; I think they’re too meaty. But this one’s really nice and just a little milky.”

West Coast

Alaskan Eagle; Alaska
“Recently the shellfish industry in Alaska has started to take hold,” says Pollinger. “This oyster has a little bit more brine than most of the west coast oysters, and it’s a little bit plumper. It has really great sweetness, which I think is indicative of the cold water. They stay plump and firm all year round because the water is so cold. It’s one of my new favorites.”

Sinku; British Columbia
“They’re big and they’re plump—I love sweet, plump oysters,” says Huynh. “They’re good on the half shell but I like to cook with them more. I like to coddle them in black bean chili garlic sauce or in a caviar butter sauce or grill them. I like to do something other than eating it raw; I like to add a little more.”

Kumamoto; Various West Coast Locations
“You can’t go wrong with a Kumamoto,” says Mullen. “It’s a really creamy, milky oyster. It’s super sweet, super small and a good starter oyster.”

Related: 19 Ways to Eat Oysters
America's Best Oyster Bars
17 Grilled Seafood Recipes

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