Fresh oysters — briny, creamy and salty — can be hard to find regularly and are highly seasonal. Freezing means you can prolong your treasure trove of fresh oysters well outside of the standard season. While you can’t eat frozen, fresh oysters raw, they are excellent for cooking and can be used in soups, stews and omelets.
Choosing Fresh Oysters
Choose only oysters that have a tightly closed shell, or one that closes when lightly tapped. Oysters with open shells have died and should be discarded. Look for oyster meat that is moist and not dried out, with a plump appearance and a mild, fresh smell. Despite popular belief, oysters should not have a fishy smell.
Shucking and Draining
While oysters can be frozen in the shell, shucking helps conserve freezer space, and makes for less work later on when you cook the oysters. If you’re freezing oysters in the shell, place them, shell and all, into freezer bags after washing thoroughly. To shuck an oysters, hold the oyster wrapped in a kitchen towel in one hand and, using your dominant hand, insert the tip of the shucking knife at an angle into the base of the oyster. Push in using medium pressure and then twist the knife upwards, levering the shell open. Slide the knife along the top of the shell to remove it, and then along the rim of the oyster to separate it from the bottom, cupped shell. Drain the liquid through a sieve, reserving for freezing, and set the shucked oyster aside.
Freezing and Storage
Freeze shucked or shell-on oysters as quickly as possible, to minimize textural changes. Shucked oysters need to be frozen, submerged in their liquor or water if there is not enough liquid left from shucking. Store them in airtight, sealed freezer containers, with no more than a 1/2 inch of head space, to protect from freezer burns. Stored correctly, frozen, raw oysters can last 4 to 6 months in the freezer.
Using Frozen Oysters
Defrost frozen oysters overnight in the fridge, or submerge the container in cold water until defrosted. If you are defrosting in water, use the thawed oysters immediately. Fridge thawed oysters can keep for two days in the fridge. Because the texture changes after freezing, and for food safety concerns frozen oysters should only be consumed cooked. Add them directly to your favorite seafood chowder or stew, to make a luxuriously silky, brine-rich soup. The frozen oysters can also be steamed, in a shallow dish or in cleaned oyster shells, with black bean sauce or sauteed garlic, ginger and green onion for a hot Asian-inspired appetizer.
References and ResourcesBBC Good Food: How to Shuck an Oyster
Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference: Oysters
National Center for Home Food Preservation: Freezing -- Oysters
Louisiana State University: Handling and Freezing Fish and Seafood at Home
Tourism PEI: Tips on Freezing Seafood
What's Cooking America: Oyster Stew Recipe
TasteHongKong.com: Steamed Frozen Oysters With Fermented Black Beans
Joy of Cooking; Irma S. Romabauer