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Oyster shooters, oysters on the half shell, oysters Rockeffeler and fried oysters are just a few ways to enjoy the delicious bay shellfish. First things first though. You have to get into those shells to get started making your favorite recipe. Below are steps to get you cooking or in this case not if you love raw oysters.

Getting Started:

Oyster shucking would seem to be a talent best suited for hearty water men, however, it is actually more finesse then brawn. Before you jump into shucking your oysters make sure you have a shucking knife, found in most grocery stores or seafood markets and we recommend shucking gloves. Some condiments for oysters are cocktail sauce, horseradish sauce, hot sauce and Old Bay seasoning. Try topping your oyster with all of these or just one or two at a time and see which combination you like best. Also a delicious appetizer can be made by topping off a saltine cracker with oyster, then add your hot sauce, a dab of horseradish and a slice of halapeno pepper, known in some parts as a rooster. Adjust accordingly for desired spiciness.

Buying Oysters:

When choosing oysters at the market, the primary consideration is that they be fresh, they do not smell and if one is open (which it shouldn't be) it should snap shut emphatically once tapped. If an oyster doesn't close immediately, don't buy it. The oysters should be arranged so that they are lying flat. The shape of the shells will give you a good idea of the amount of meat you are getting. The deeper the cup of the lower shell, the better. The rounder varieties of oysters, such as Belons and Olympias, should be symmetrical. For the more elongated Atlantic and Japanese oysters, look for shells that fan out widely from the hinge, indicating that the oysters have had plenty of room to develop.

Good oysters of the Atlantic and Japanese varieties are available year-round. Belons and Olympias do, in a way, justify the old rule about not eating oysters in months without the letter "r" in the name, so you are unlikely to find them in markets. This is not because they are dangerous; it is the result of differences in the way they reproduce.

Storing Oysters :

Do not store the oysters in water. If you do not plan to eat them right away, arrange them flat on a tray, cover them with a damp towel, and store them in the refrigerator. They'll keep this way for about a day.

Shucking Oysters:

Slide in the knife!
Step 1:
Hold the oyster firmly in one hand, knife in the other.  Slip the knife blade between the top and bottom shell right by the hinge on back. The person in this picture is holding the oyster with her bare hands - WE DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS! Drape a towel over your open palm and hold the oyster that way - the shell ridges are sharp!

Break that bad boy loose!
Step 2:
Run the knife the way around the oyster until you get to the other side. This sounds easy until you're actually doing it! Some oysters just don't take kindly to people sticking knives in their shell.  Be brave and put some muscle into it, but be careful - this is where you'll cut or stab yourself.

Pry him apart!
Step 3: Using a twisting motion, pry the top and bottom shells apart. Be gentle but firm so you don't lose any of the liquor inside.

Eat him up!
Step 4:
Cut the oyster free from his shell.  He'll be connected by a tough knob on his underside; slide your knife under and sever it.  You can either go to the trouble of setting down your blade and using a little fork to pick the oyster out, or you can do like the natives do and just scoop him with your knife and pop him in your mouth.  Drink the liquor out of the shell.

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