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Char-Grilled Oysters

Monday, February 22, 2010

I used to live in Southern Sonoma County. We would go to the ocean on Saturday or Sunday afternoons when we could, either in Sonoma or to the Point Reyes area of Marin County. In the roadside turnouts you could find someone with a kettle barbecue grilling oysters and selling them three for a buck. They came from the local beds, so they couldn’t be fresher.

The easiest way to grill oysters is to throw them on the grill over a hot fire and leave them there until they pop. Pry the shell open a bit more, then put in a little sauce made of melted butter, a little white wine, and a littler bit of commercial BBQ sauce; then let it cook for another minute. You don’t want to overcook them. Squeeze a lemon wedge over one of these after it’s cooled a bit and pop it in your mouth. Slurp up the juices, or sop them up with some great sourdough bread. Wash it down with a cold beer like Anchor Steam or Sam Adams. Repeat. You won’t be sorry!

But if you want something a bit fancier, here you go:

Char Grilled Oysters

Serves: 4 to 6
Prep time: 30 minutes

Way to grill: direct high heat (450° to 550°f)
Grilling time: 2 to 4 minutes
Special equipment: oyster knife


  • 2 dozen large, fresh oysters
  • Lemon wedges
  • Hot sauce
  • Cocktail sauce


  1. Grip each oyster, flat side up, in a folded kitchen towel. Find the small opening between the shells near the hinge and pry it open with an oyster knife. Try not to spill the delicious juices, known as the “oyster liqueur,” in the bottom shell. Cut the oyster meat loose from the top shell and then loosen the oyster from the bottom shell by running the oyster knife carefully underneath the body. Discard the top, flatter shell, keeping the oyster and juices in the bottom, deeper shell.
  2. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat.
  3. Spoon some of your favorite dipping sauce on top of each oyster (recipes follow).
  4. Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the oysters, shell sides down, over direct high heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until the oyster juices start to bubble and the edges curl, 2 to 4 minutes. Using tongs, carefully remove the oysters from the grill. Serve with lemon wedges, hot sauce, cocktail sauce, and your favorite dipping sauce.

Garlic-Thyme Butter


Makes enough for 2 dozen oysters

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. In a small skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and sauté the garlic until it starts to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the vinegar and wine and simmer until the sauce reduces by half, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, whisk in the remaining butter, and stir in the thyme and salt.

Grapefruit-Basil Aioli

Makes enough for 2 dozen oysters

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons finely grated grapefruit zest
  • 2 teaspoons fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. In a small bowl combine the ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Asian Butter Sauce

Makes enough for 2 dozen oysters

  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
  1. In a small skillet over medium heat, combine the oil and ginger and heat until the oil begins to foam. Remove from the heat; stir in the oyster sauce, soy sauce, and mustard. Whisk in the butter a few chunks at a time until completely incorporated.

Gorgonzola-Tomato Sauce

Makes enough for 2 dozen oysters

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup vegetable juice
  • 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the shallot and garlic for about 2 minutes. Add the vegetable juice, horseradish, and salt. Bring the sauce to a simmer and then remove it from the heat. After you’ve added the sauce to the oysters, sprinkle the cheese on top, and then grill.
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