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There are few events that eclipse an oyster roast.  Held most often in the fall or early spring, oyster roasts hit all the senses.  The smell of the sea, the warmth of the fire on a chilly day, the taste of the ocean, the sight of a juicy oyster ready to pop in your mouth, and the sound of hot flames on wet oyster shells.  It even delivers on umami – the newly acknowledged sixth sense that you can’t quite describe but you know it when you taste it.  

If you’ve always eaten your oysters raw on the half shell, roasted oysters concentrate the brininess of the oyster.  “Roasting” oysters actually means steaming them until the little bivalves just can’t stand it anymore and finally burst open their tightly held shells.  A perfectly steamed oyster eaten fresh from the roasting pit is one of the best bites in the world.

Below are some simple tips to host your own oyster roast.  We love to see pictures and hear about your own roast.  Please post them to our Facebook page at facebook.com/harborislandoyster.


A good party always starts with the right people.  Oyster roasts invitations can be a little difficult to track down, but there are some really beautiful ones.  We blogged about it on Oyster Stew. Check out our favorites.



Such goodness doesn’t come easy. If you're lucky enough to have a wide open space, a roasting pit and the knowledge and patience totnd a wooden or charcoal burning fire, please treat your friends and family to a made-for-the-magazines oyster roast.  If you're invited to one, please be the first to RSVP.

However ...

If your space is limited or the idea of building and tending an open fire is daunting, a seafood steamer connected to a propane tank is perfect.

You’ll need a large steamer pot, a steamer bucket that fits in the pot, a tripod, and a propane tank (swipe the one from your gas grill).  We recommend the Bayou Classic 60-Quart All Purpose Aluminum Stockpot with Steam and Boil Basket (about $100) and the Bayou Classic High-Pressure Outdoor Gas Cooker (about $50).  


Step 1
Seafood steamers typically come with a perforated bucket.  Fill the pot until an inch below the basket line with a 9:1 ratio of water to white vinegar.  

Step 2
Place on the tripod over the propane tank, place the bucket on the tripod, place the cover on the pot and bring the water to a boil.  

Step 3 
In the meantime, wash oysters in an outdoor sink or use a garden hose.  When the water boils, add oysters to the pot.  Take time to stack the oysters by hand (rather than dumping them haphazardly into the pot) to ensure a more even steam. Place the lid on the pot with the oysters. 

Step 4
After 10 min., pull up the basket (be sure to protect your hands) and give the oysters a shake to make sure you can see the oysters both on the top and the bottom.  If you want a glorious, juicy oyster, pull them out of the steamer when the shells have separated about an 1/8”.  Wait until they’ve separated a 1/4" - 1/2" for a more well done oyster.

Step 5 
Dump oysters directly on the table – preferably one made especially for oysters (see below).  Guests should eat as quickly and as many oysters as they can.  

Repeat until you run out of oysters.


Plan for one bushel of oysters for every five oyster-eating guests.  Serve with saltine crackers, hot sauce, cocktail sauce (hot and extra hot), warm melted butter ... and plenty of paper towels. It’s best to have enough knives for everyone at your roast.  (Harbor Island Oyster Co. offers an Oyster Roast Party Starter Bucket which includes 12 party knives, 12 deluxe Koozies, 6 butter warmers, 3 bottles of Texas Pete hot sauce, and a pair of oyster gloves.)


Purests would say that all you need for a good roasted oyster is a good roast oyster.  But we're open to all types of condiments: saltine crackers, hot sauce, cocktail sauce and warm melted butter.  If you have beginner oyster eaters at your roast, start them off with a tender oyster on a saltine cracker topped with homemade cocktail sauce.  


Harbor Island Oyster Co.'s first product was the Engraved Signature Oyster Knife.  Some of it's earliest customers were oyster lovers who preferred to bring their own personalized knife to an oyster roast.  For those who don't bring their own, be sure to provide at least one oyster knife or oyster shucker per couple.  Harbor Island Oyster Co. offers two knives - one for oyster eaters and one for oyster roast hosts.
The Harbor Island Oyster Co.'s Signature Knife is the perfect oyster shucker for you to take to your next roast.  We can engrave your name, your initials, the date of your anniversary, the date of your wife's birthday, greek fraternity and sorority letters, your address, your beach house address, your favorite saying, or even "Hands Off My Knife."    
Or, as party host, you can order a half dozen or dozen of our Party Shuckers.  We tested dozens of shuckers and liked these the best - especially for roasted oysters.  At just $5 per knife, they are a steal.  

And now, we offer Engraved Party Shuckers.  You may choose to engrave up to 10 characters on each knife (we recommend your last name).  The same name must be engraved on all 6 knives.  Engraving on the party shuckers is just $3 per knife.


Craving just a few steamed oysters?  Use the microwave! Say what?  We didn’t believe it either until our favorite seafood guy gave us the heads up.  Place a couple of oysters in the microwave.  It’s imperative that you watch the oysters. Microwave on high until the shells just burst open.  In our tests, it took about one minute for one oyster and about 45 sec. with three oysters.  (Yes, it takes less time for more oysters ....)  Read our blog post at Oyster Stew for more specific information.  (Microwave at your own risk.  We’re not responsible for damage done to your microwave.)


OK, so steaming oysters in a pot is definitely not as charming as roasting oysters over a wood-burning pit.  This is when you pull a head fake.  Invest is an oyster table. 

At their core, an oyster table is nothing more than a table with a hole in the middle to push the oyster shells into after they’ve been eaten.  Many people cut a hole in a piece of standard 8 x 4 plywood and place it on top of two sawhorses.  We think the oyster table has long been neglected.

Harbor Island Oyster Co. is working with a Wilmington, NC-based furniture designer to develop a collapsible, water proof table.  It can easily be stored and sprayed off with a garden hose after the party.  We hope to have the table available to ship by June 2013, but we'll try and sneak you some prototypes in the meantime.  If you would like us to contact you directly when the tables are ready, please send us an email at concierge@harborislandoytser.com and we'll add you to the list of people who will be the first to know.


Please do not throw out the oyster shells at the end of your roast.  Oysters are a critical part of keeping our waterways clean.  Most coastal municipalities now offer recycling centers for oyster shells. (Check out our list of restoration and recycling efforts in the U.S.)  Volunteers, oystermen, students, marine biologists and others load up the shells and strategically place them back in the water.  Baby oysters will attach themselves to these recycled shells and start the lifecyle over again.  Within three years, these baby oysters will be ready for your next oyster roast.  We love this video from chef and activist Daniel Kline (theperennialplate.com) about recycling oyster shells.