What to Expect When Ordering Raw Oysters for the First Time

What to Expect When Ordering Raw Oysters for the First Time

For most people, when it comes to raw oysters they typically have a very firm stance on this type of seafood. Whether you love or hate raw oysters, there is no denying that raw oysters have a flavor and a texture that is entirely their own. However, if you are one of those people who have simply never tried raw oysters before then you may not know where in the world you will fall on this topic, or even where to begin when it comes to trying this type of gourmet seafood.

There is no denying there is a right way to eat raw oysters, which can make trying this seafood for the first time seem like a very daunting undertaking. However, there is no need to be nervous about trying them, if you know what to expect. If you keep these tips in mind and act like you know what you’re doing, trying raw oysters for the first time doesn’t have to be as scary as it seems.

This is what you can expect when you order:

Most restaurants that serve raw oysters will tell you either in person or on their menu what type of oysters that they have. There are raw oysters available from all over the world, each with their own unique size and flavor. Some are saltier (or briny) than others, some are bigger, some are firm, and no one type of oyster is better than the other, it is all about preference. For most first-time oyster eaters, a milder oyster is best.

If your waiter is describing the oysters to you, here are what some of the key words mean in oyster vocabulary.

“Plump”- Oysters that grow in nutrient-rich water that develop a fuller texture.
“Springy”- The opposite of plump oysters, typically found on the east coast, and grown in cold water. They are typically very firm.
“Sweet”- Usually means mild instead of salty.
“Creamy”- This a term is used to describe butter oysters that are typically not as firm as saltier counterparts.
“Cucumber”- Oysters from British Columbia with a cucumber finish.
“Copper”- Oysters with strong, acidic flavor.
“Fresh Biscuits”- These are beginner oysters that have yet to develop a real strong or salty flavor.

Typically, raw oyster come in sets of dozens or half dozen.

Different restaurants will serve raw oysters different ways, but traditionally they will come out on ice with both horseradish and cocktail sauce on the side as well as a lemon for squeezing. Depending on your preference and how you feel about these condiments, you can use them or not, but for most first-timers, it is fun to try raw oysters without any of the dressings.

Many people also like to eat their raw oysters on a plain saltine cracker as it provides a unique juxtaposition of textures and flavors. If your waiter or waitress doesn’t serve your oysters with a side of saltines, you may want to ask, as it can be a great way to cut the flavor.


Here are some tips for your first time:

Once your oysters arrive, it’s time to dive in.

Once you pick up one of your oysters, you will want to put on your condiments, if desired, and use your fork to slightly loosen the oyster from its shell. There will be a liquid surrounding the oyster, but that is part of the experience. Some people call this “oyster juice” but the proper name is actually oyster liquor. It is a natural juice that keeps the oyster alive when it’s out of the water. The juice is actually quite delicious and should always be clear, never cloudy. You should never eat raw oysters that are served without this liquid around them.

For beginners, it is typically best to slurp down your oyster, and while that may sound a little unappealing, it is a great way to enjoy the oyster, especially if you aren’t ready for the texture. Some oyster connoisseurs will claim that you should chew the oyster every time as it helps you get the full flavor, however, if you aren’t used to the consistency of raw oysters, chewing them can be difficult, awkward and even a little unappealing.

If you do decide to chew before swallowing your oyster, you only need to chew a few times, you shouldn’t be munching on them.

From there, you can just sit back, relax and enjoy the truly incomparable taste of raw, fresh oysters as you finally decide whether you fall in the “love” or “hate” category when it comes to this controversial seafood.