5 Tips for How to Eat an Oyster like a Local

Oyster roasts are one of our favorite traditions here at Kiawah River. Accompanied by live music, libations and a beautiful setting, an oyster roast is a great time to gather friends and family during and after the holiday season for some old-fashioned, Lowcountry fun. At Kiawah River, oyster beds line the sparkling saltwater riverside, serving as the perfect inspiration for this seasonal celebration.

These cherished events come with their own etiquette, which may vary depending on who you ask. Below is our beginner’s guide to the do’s and don’ts of hosting (or attending) an oyster roast.

Do: Attend annual oyster roasts in the Lowcountry

Each year, locals and visitors alike gather at various Lowcountry oyster roasts to celebrate the highly anticipated oyster season. This year, the 10th Annual Bo Roast & Chili Cook-off will take place on Jan. 25 at the Smokey Oak Taproom on James Island, where oysters and chili from local restaurants and aspiring home chefs are on the menu.

If you can’t wait for the area’s annual roasts to dig into a bushel, there are several local restaurants serving up plates of steamed oysters throughout the season. Near Kiawah River, the Tattooed Moose on Johns Island hosts weekly oyster roasts accompanied by live music beginning Dec. 30 from 2-6 p.m. Bowen Island Restaurant near Folly Beach also serves up freshly steamed oysters straight from the local waters.

Don’t: Buy your oysters from just anywhere

If you’re ready to host your own roast, you’ll need to buy raw bivalves to steam. While it’s hard to go wrong with Lowcountry oysters, you want to ensure you’re getting the best bushel for your buck. Bushels are available at Crosby’s Fish and Shrimp on Folly Beach, just a short drive from Kiawah River, but don’t wait too long as they typically sell out before each weekend. Huff’s Seafood on James Island also sells locally selected oysters by the bushel. Once you have your bushels, it’s up to you how you’re going to prepare them: in a steam pot, over a fire or on a grill.

Do: Recycle your leftover shells

Did you know old oyster shells provide the best surface on which to grow juvenile oysters? The S.C. Department of Natural Resources has dozens of stationary oyster recycling bins located throughout the Charleston region to discard used oyster shells. Recycling your shells will help restore, preserve and enhance the state’s inshore marine habitat, making it easier (and cheaper) for you to buy bushels for next season’s roast! Just make sure that there’s no trash, like paper towels and cups, mixed in with the shells.

Don’t: Forget your supplies

If you’ve bought your bushels, you’ll have to shuck your oysters. Proper shucking takes time and practice, but no matter your skill level, it’s important to wear cut-resistant gloves to protect your hands from your oyster knife. (If you’re in the market for a new oyster knife, check out Garden & Gun’s cutlery recommendations.) Make sure to have enough knives to go around and a few extra shuckers on hand to help beginners with their plate. Other roast essentials include paper towels, saltine crackers, lemons, an outdoor table and cocktail and hot sauces – we prefer Charleston newcomer Red Clay hot sauce.

Do: Consider the number of oysters per person

Depending on the species and location of oysters, one bushel typically has 100 oysters, which feeds approximately four to six people. So, take into account the number of people at the roast to make sure you have enough oysters to go around.

Don’t: Forget basic tasting etiquette

If you’re an oyster novice, here are a few tips and tricks to making sure you get the most out of your roast:

> Be mindful of the oyster’s liquor. It’s considered a precious part of the oyster and it’s packed with a ton of flavor, so don’t pour it out! If there isn’t any clear liquid in the shell, it may be a sign your oysters aren’t fresh, or the oyster wasn’t shucked properly.

> Use a cocktail fork to gently nudge the oyster loose from its shell, being careful not to puncture the oyster’s body with the utensil.

> Try at least one oyster “naked” before adding any condiments to appreciate its true flavor.

> Be reserved in adding condiments like cocktail sauce and saltine crackers. Most of the time, all an oyster needs is a dash of lemon juice and a drop of hot sauce.

Oyster roasts are one of the Lowcountry’s tastiest traditions during the colder months. Whether you like them steamed, fried or grilled, these bivalves are the perfect addition to any party to ensure a shucking good time!