This is what I call a party trick recipe—it’s that dish you pull out during the warm summer months when you really want to knock everyone’s socks off. As it should be, because when you opt not to eat oysters deliciously raw, they better be done right. And these grilled oysters are indeed done right.
Each one is dabbed with spicy miso butter that melts into a rich, bubbling, deeply golden sauce that pairs perfectly with the briny bivalves. Be sure to have plenty of crusty bread on hand, because you’ll want to mop up the buttery juices that remain once you’ve plucked the oysters from their shells.
When it comes to buying oysters, you don’t want to mess around. They are sold live and should stay that way until it comes time to eat them. Find a fishmonger or seafood shop that you trust. A good oyster should have a briny, minerally smell. If it smells funky or unpleasant, toss it out.
When it comes to eating raw oysters, I tend to favor tiny, more delicate varieties. With grilled oysters, though, I like a little more heft. Seek out medium to large oysters for this recipe if you can find them. The spicy miso butter has a robust flavor, so can benefit from a bit more meat in that shell.
As for how to store your oysters, I got the best advice from Peter Prime, owner of Duxbury Prime Oysters in Massachusetts (who also happens to be my cousin).
Peter said he typically buries oysters in a cooler of ice, so they’re completely surrounded. He sets that in a shady spot in the backyard with the drain unplugged. The oysters will stay good and cold for a day or two without sitting in a pool of water, since it will drain off as the ice melts.
Just be sure to replenish the ice from time to time so that the oysters stay nice and cold and surrounded by ice.
If you have neither cooler nor backyard (or live in such heat that keeping things cool outdoors is impossible). Peter suggests refrigerating oysters in a bowl covered with a damp towel to provide a barrier and keep them moist.
One last tip from Peter? Before grilling, dump the oysters in the sink and give them a good scrub under running water.
One of the major upsides to grilled oysters is that you get to skip the most taxing part of the process: the shucking. Shucking takes time, is messy, and can be dangerous for the uninitiated.
The heat of the grill cracks the shells open for you. And that popped shell is like a built-in thermometer, signaling the oysters are cooked. You can use an oyster knife to help remove the shells but an ordinary paring knife will do the job as well.
I’m a fan of oysters pretty much any way I can get them, but that’s not the case for everyone.
Grilling oysters cooks them completely, which means they are a great gateway for those who aren’t so sure about raw shellfish. They’re also an option when raw seafood isn’t advised, such as for pregnant women, young children, and folks with a compromised immune system.
Not only is grilling oysters easy as can be, but the spicy miso butter is also a snap to make as well. It’s just three ingredients: butter, white miso, and sriracha.
If you’re unfamiliar with miso, Hetty McKinnon, author of the cookbook, “To Asia, With Love” discusses miso in this guide to an everyday Asian pantry. It’s a salty, umami-rich paste made of fermented soybeans that packs a whole lot of flavor into a few little teaspoons.
It’s best to serve these oysters as soon as they’re done. Here are a few tips and suggestions:
- Line a large platter with a layer of rock salt, kosher salt, or even ordinary uncooked rice. That way you can nestle the grilled oysters into the salt or rice to keep them from tipping over and spilling that precious sauce.
- Set out a baguette with the oysters (feel free to warm it on the grill if you like). You can leave it whole, inviting your guests to tear off a hunk or two, or cut it into slices.
- Pair the oysters with a dry sparkling wine or a crisp, minerally white.
- 2 dozen medium to large fresh oysters in the shell
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 2 teaspoons white miso paste
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sriracha
- 1 large lime, zested
- 1 baguette, for serving
- Preheat your grill:
If you’re using a gas grill, turn it to high, cover with the lid and let preheat for 10 minutes.
If using a charcoal grill, light the coals and let them get hot. The grill is hot enough when you hold your hand an inch above the grill grates and can only leave it there for a few seconds.
- Make the miso butter:
In a small bowl combine the butter, miso paste, and sriracha using a fork until well blended. Set aside until ready to use.
- Clean the oysters:
Rinse the oysters under cold running water. Use a scrub brush or kitchen towel to slough off any dirt.
- Grill the oysters:
Place the oysters on the hot grill, flat-side up, and cover with the lid. Cook until the oysters crack open. They won’t necessarily open wide like a clam, just look for a little crack.
Occasionally an oyster refuses to open. Not to worry, it will be fully cooked, and you can wedge it open using an oyster knife. If you open the oyster and it smells “off” or unpleasant, toss it out.
The time will vary depending on the heat of the grill and size of the oysters, 3 to 6 minutes.
- Transfer to a platter and open oysters:
Use tongs to transfer the oysters to a platter, including any oysters that haven’t cracked open (they are fully cooked and are fine to eat unless they have an unpleasant smell).
When the oysters are cool enough to handle, use an oyster or paring knife to pry the flat lid off each oyster and loosen it from the shell. Do your best not to spill the tasty oyster juices. You want each oyster tucked into the well of its shell. Discard the flat top shell.
Any oysters that haven’t opened should be fairly easy to wedge open. Hold each unopened oyster using a sturdy kitchen towel to protect your hand and insert an oyster knife in the narrow end of the shell. Wiggle until the shell lifts off.
- Spoon miso butter onto oysters and return to grill:
Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of miso butter onto each oyster and set on the grill using tongs. Cover and grill until the butter bubbles, 30 to 60 seconds.
- Transfer to a platter:
Spread uncooked rice or a rock salt over a large platter to help stabilize the oysters. (If you want to.) Place the oysters on top and add a little lime zest over the top.
Serve with the baguette, to be torn and dunked into the melted miso butter that lingers in the shells.