12 Classic and Wily Ways to Top Off Grilled Oysters


12 Classic and Wily Ways to Top Off Grilled Oysters

July 27, 2017

Long Island, here we come. We partnered with Blue Point Brewing Company—whose coastal heritage and namesake have deep ties to oysters—to celebrate all things on the island just east of New York City.

Oysters on the half shell, on ice, is always quite nice. But oysters, hot off the grill can also be an interesting thrill, especially in summertime when your beer will seem colder because your oyster is cooked. All you have to do is choose a grilling method, select the right kind of oysters, and mix up a few sauces and you're ready to host an oyster-laden cocktail hour.

Photo by Mark Weinburg, Graphic by Tim McSweeney

Choose A Grilling Method

There are two ways to grill an oyster in its own shell, over a hot flame.

The grill and shuck technique
Closed fresh oysters hit the grate naked and then pop open after a few minutes with grill cover engaged. They don’t pop all the way open like clams or mussels do, but release their seal just a crack. Waiting for them to open any further will result in a chewy, over cooked oyster. Eaters stand at the ready to pry off the flat top shells, finishing each one with a dab of a simple, cold sauce seconds before the oysters slide down the hatch.

The shuck and grill method
The cook (or her minions) completely remove a live oyster’s flat top shell ahead of grilling and place an almond-sized piece of compound butter into the shell on top of the meaty bivalve. After a few minutes on the grill, the rich toppings melt around the oyster, mix with its liquor and effectively poaching the meat in a rich sauce.

For both methods, the heat under the grates must be very hot, the oyster should be placed on the grates flat shell up and transferred on and off the grill using tongs.

Select Your Oysters

No matter which way you decide to run with your backyard oyster BBQ, oysters are selected for the job in the same fashion. Always look for large oysters with nicely cupped bottom shells that can cradle the meat, natural juices, and complementary toppings while sitting in between the grill grates or on the serving plate. All oysters should be kept cold and be able to breath on their way to your home refrigerator, which typically means they should sit in an open-topped bag nestled in ice. If they open slightly on the ride home or during their time in the refrigerator, tap them gently on the counter. If they oyster closes quickly, it’s edible. If it remains open or is sluggish to close, don’t eat it.

Onto The Fun Stuff: Sauces

The sauces served with grilled then shucked oysters don’t typically need any heat applied in their preparation. On the simple side, a squeeze of lemon, an eye dropper full of peaty scotch, crisp, clean lager, or smoky beer, or dab of cocktail sauce will do the trick.


A little tin of mignonette goes a long way! Photo by James Ransom

A mignonette, typically served with raw oysters, is a lively addition to grilled oysters, too. A classic mignonette’s —typically involving a 1:1 ratio of minced shallot to champagne vinegar plus a good pinch of each sugar and salt—can take on any number of alternative personalities. Minced scallions, apple cider vinegar and maple syrup, for one example. Or mixed, minced chives, celery leaves, and white wine vinegar as another. Regardless of the combination, make the mignonette four hours in advance of when you want to serve it so the flavors get to mingle amongst themselves before meeting the oysters.

Mignonettes to try

Minced shallot + Champagne vinegar + pinch sugar + pinch salt
Minced scallions + apple cider vinegar + maple syrup + pinch salt
Minced chives + minced celery leaves + white wine vinegar + pinch sugar + pinch salt
Finely diced cucumber + minced chives + chopped dill + white wine vinegar + pinch sugar + pinch salt


A relish is another way to top off shucked and grilled oysters. Whether processed via great knife skills, a mortar and pestle, or a mini food processor, relish combinations like minced kimchi and cilantro, Gochujang, and toasted sesame oil; horseradish, parsley, and cranberry; or pickled green tomato and sweet onion could be matched to the beer you’re drinking with your oysters. (Psst: Crisp, clean lagers go particularly well with this topper.)

Relishes to try

Minced kimchi + minced cilantro+ Gochujang + toasted sesame oil
Horseradish + minced parsley + finely diced cranberries
Chopped pickled green tomato + minced sweet onion
Finely diced sweet and hot peppers + minced red onion + lime juice and zest + honey

Compound Butter

They're great on anything. Photo by James Ransom

If you’re willing to shuck the raw oysters first, you can try a compound butter. You’re reward will be a decadent sauce that suits the supple oysters and, should some spill onto the plate, is best sopped up with crusty bread. Typically an almond sized piece of butter nestled into the shucked oyster will stay contained inside the shell. Should a bit seep over the edges and spark a small flare-up, your oysters will take on an added smoky flavor. (Not a bad thing!)

Most of these sauces start with a room temperature butter. Into the butter salty, sweet, and spicy elements get mixed for balance. The classic New Orleans combination is butter, garlic, hot sauce and parsley. For standard French flare, try a recipe for compound butter that's used to top off snails, aka snail butter. For an Asian combination try, Sriracha Lime Butter. Butter whipped with maple syrup, bourbon, and chipotle evokes a BBQ flavor. Any of these butters are best whipped up well ahead of time for the best flavor.

Compound butters to try

Butter + minced garlic + hot sauce + minced parsley
Butter + minced garlic + minced parsley + Pernod + cayenne
Butter+ Sriracha + minced shallots + lime zest + minced cilantro
Butter + maple syrup + bourbon + minced chipotle pepper in adobo

It's beachside or bust for us. (In all honesty, beers and oysters could quite possibly be one of our favorite combinations out there. Like anywhere.) We partnered with Blue Point Brewing Company for doing what's just right and good when it's hot: Having a beer, slurping an oyster, and sticking feet in sand or ocean. So, cheers to summer! Read all about Blue Point's Toasted Lager here.

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