June 20, 2011
Oh sweet, sweet, barbecued oysters. The salty brine…the tangy barbecue sauce…hanging out around the grill waiting until they come off…awkwardly pretending like you didn’t just eat a dozen so it’s definitely your turn to eat the next round. Summer is here.
I think barbecued oysters must be big out West, especially in Northern California. The first time I had them was at a party in Sausalito that I lucked into for “Opening Day on the Bay.” And then my good friend Matt, a San Francisco native, moved into Portland and was grilling oysters on his deck just above mine on Munjoy Hill. I was hooked. And as a bonus, I learned the technique.
Barbecued oysters are a great way to enjoy oysters at home. They’re easier to shuck after they’ve been on the grill since they pop right open for you. For anyone a bit squeamish about raw oysters, these are cooked. You can also top barbecued oysters with a garlic or herbed butter, instead of the barbecue sauce, but I really think there’s something magical in the combo of oyster liquor and a tangy barbecue sauce.
To start – you’ll need a few essential tools. A GOOD shucking knife, tongs, some kitchen towels, and a grill, of course. For the oysters, we love Glidden Point Sea Farm’s oysters. Take a drive and check out their super cute little self-service store in Edgecomb. And, get this, their slogan is “You Don’t Win Friends with Salad.” LOVE! For the barbecue sauce, I make the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated but you could use any quality barbecue sauce that you like. Oh, and beer. That’s essential.
Easy so far, right? To barbecue, get your grill up to somewhere between 350 and 400 (medium). Meanwhile, make sure to keep your oysters on ice while you get everything ready. Once the grill is hot, just place the oysters on the grill and close the lid. You’ll know they’re ready when they pop open a bit, usually about 5-7 minutes.
Now, take your GOOD shucking knife, pop open the oyster, and remove the little guy from his post. The key here is to wait a few minutes until they’re a little cooler to handle and to try to shuck them while retaining as much of that oyster liquor that you can. A kitchen towel comes in handy to avoid getting burned.
Dollop each oyster with a little teaspoon of barbecue sauce, place it back on the grill, close the lid and let them warm up for another 2-4 minutes. This part can be a little tricky because the oyster shells may want to tip over so it requires some tongs. I read online that you can make little “oyster sofas” for them with little bits of tinfoil.
Unless you’re an oyster shucking master, you may want to barbecue the oysters in batches. This is where the beer comes in. Hang out, barbecue a few, hang out, barbecue a few more, repeat. Welcome to summer!