The winter months in Columbia usually mean sweater weather. This is a great time for a cool weather outdoor party around the fire pit, and it’s always fun to shuck oysters on the back deck. Here is everything you need to know about hosting an oyster roast of your own.
First, while oysters may be eaten raw, most people seem to enjoy them steamed. To steam oysters, you only need a large, hot, flat metal surface and some wet burlap sacks. Build a fire in your fire pit, lay a sheet of heavy gauge metal on top, and when it gets hot, shovel the raw oysters onto the surface. Throw wet burlap sacks over the oysters and let the shells steam until they start to open up, usually just a few minutes. Pull them off the fire with your flat shovel and dump them onto a wooden table for people to shuck and eat. It’s that simple.
To serve the oysters, we recommend ample supplies of Saltine crackers, horseradish, cocktail sauce, lemon slices, and Tabasco sauce. You will need oyster knives to open the shells. (Have quite a few knives so several guests can shuck at the same time.) It’s a good idea to have a supply of work gloves, too, to prevent people from cutting themselves – those oyster knives can be tricky.
We usually set everything out on a sheet of 4X8 plywood set up as a table on the deck or back porch. That way there is plenty of room and people can get as messy as they’d like. Have several rolls of paper towels handy and some large trash cans nearby for the discarded oyster shells.
Since some guests may not eat oysters, we suggest serving Beaufort Stew (a simple and easy recipe boil of shrimp, corn, potatoes, and sausage) and setting this out on the table as well. Between oysters and Beaufort Stew, nobody’s going to go home hungry. Hot dogs may be a good alternative if you have youngsters around.
While you can always dress up oysters with champagne, a keg of good draft beer is your best bet to accompany an oyster roast.
How to set up your grill:
In the old days, people set the hood of an old car over an open fire to roast their oysters. We recommend you get a piece of fairly heavy gauge metal from a local metal worker or welding supply company and have it cut to cover most of your brick fire pit. Set this directly on your fire pit, leaving some uncovered space where you can tend the fire. If you don’t have a fire pit, you can set your metal sheet on one or more gas stoves like you would use for a turkey fryer. You can also cook the oysters in a pot like the one that comes with your turkey fryer kit.
Where to buy oysters:
You can Google seafood markets for a complete listing of retailers near you. There are several places in Columbia that sell raw oysters by the bushel. Call ahead to place your order to make sure they have what you need in stock. One bushel of oysters should serve about 10 people, but that could vary depending on your mix of oyster lovers vs. non-oyster eaters.
Tradition has it that you should only eat oysters in a month with an “R” in it. This is not as strict a rule today with improved food handling and refrigeration equipment, but somehow it still feels best to eat oysters in the colder months. Regardless, keep the oysters on ice in a cooler until you are ready to cook them, as spoiled oysters can make you very sick.
Ready to try it? We hope we’ve inspired you to plan an oyster roast of your own.
Let us know how it turns out!!