Q&A

What is this site?

Oysterater is for everyone who’s ever walked into an oyster bar, stared at a chalkboard full of Bluepoints, Malpeques, Sea Cows and Beavertails, and thought, “How do I decide?” With Oysterater, you can quickly look up every oyster in existence and see what others have to say about it. You can learn where and how it’s grown, how big and salty it tends to be, and what species of oyster it is. You can also use Oysterater to find other oysters like it. If you want (and we very much hope you do), you can join our community of oyster lovers and add your own comments and ratings. You can also keep track of your faves and add Oysterater to your iPhone or Android home screen.

What’s an oyster?

Oh, dear. An oyster is a bivalve (two-shelled) mollusk that lives in brackish estuaries. Like clams and mussels, it’s a filter feeder; it spends all day, every day with its shell cracked open, pumping water across its gills and filtering out phytoplankton, which are single-celled plants. For the first week or two of its life it’s free-swimming, looking for a hard surface (preferably another shell) to attach to. After that, it never moves again.

Why are there so many different names?

Since the Romans began eating oysters two thousand years ago, people have noticed that oysters from each bay tasted different. Makes sense if you think about their lifestyle.

Who the heck are you people?

Glad you asked. See Team

Can I buy oysters from you?

We don’t sell anything directly–we’re here to create community–but we do link to certain growers with excellent reputations who ship directly. You’ll find “order online” buttons on the pages for those oysters. In addition, those select growers are listed on Oysterater’s fresh shipped page. Buying direct ensures that your oysters are phenomenally fresh.

How do I open them?

You’ll need an oyster knife. Like changing a tire or sewing a button, shucking an oyster is one of those life skills that every fully formed adult should possess. A personal teacher is best, but in the meantime here’s an excellent video tutorial. Also, note that there are approximately one zillion different styles of oyster knife out there, most of them awful. We have tried them all, and we highly recommend the Narragansett by R Murphy Knife Company. Incredibly strong blade, superb durability, and high marks for style. Founded in 1850 in Boston, and still made right in Massachusetts using the finest steels, R Murphy Knives blow away most others we’ve tried, and last forever.

What about sauce?

A good oyster needs no sauce. A few drops of lemon juice and a touch of cracked pepper can be pretty amazing, as can a really great mignonette. A bad oyster screams out for cocktail sauce.

What about drinks?

The right wine, beer, or martini with the right oyster is one of the worlds most sublime pairings. You eat your oyster, you sip your drink, and rays of happiness start to spin out of your head. The wrong drink with the wrong oyster–nothing. Suffice it to say, we have strong opinions on the matter. Here are some that passed our tests with flying colors. We’ll add more as we discover them, and can offer community picks from prior discussions on OysteRater: What’s the best drink with oysters?

I’m an oyster farmer, and my oyster isn’t listed on Oysterater.

Please CONTACT us. We’d love to include you.

I’m an oyster eater, and I just ate an awesome oyster that isn’t listed.

TELL US the details. We’ll add it. And take a photo. (Preferably before you eat it.)

Is it safe to eat raw oysters?

Safer than eating rare ground beef or raw veggies. We at Oysterater like our oysters to come out of water as cold as possible, which keeps the microflora levels low. In water warmer than 70 degrees fahrenheit (or even a bit cooler on the West Coast), bacteria levels can get high enough to give people food poisoning. It’s best to cook those oysters.

What about the R rule?

That was invented in the 1800s, when food safety was pretty much nonexistent. Water quality along our coasts was much worse, and oysters would typically sit in barrels cooking in the sun for days before being sold. So people began avoiding them when temperatures were warmest–during the R-less summer months, from May through August. Since oysters also spawn during the summer, this rule also allowed the oysters to reproduce before we harvested them. Today, farmed oysters are immediately refrigerated upon harvest and kept at 40 degrees fahrenheit all the way to your plate, so the R rule no longer applies (but see above).

Most oysters are farmed these days, but isn’t farmed seafood bad?

Farmed shellfish is the greenest food on the planet, greener than the most sustainable of terrestrial farms, because it’s the only kind of farming with zero inputs. You don’t feed shellfish; they get all their food by straining microscopic algae out of the water, and algae is something our coasts have way too much of, thanks to overnutrification by farms and cities. So every oyster farm leaves the water cleaner than before. The big knock on fish farming is that you have to dump tons of feed in the water; some of that feed goes into the fish, but most winds up in the environment (even if it passes through the fish first). In addition, farmed fish don’t taste as good as wild fish because they don’t get as much exercise and don’t eat their natural diet, but farmed oysters get the exact same exercise and diet as their wild cousins. (There are no free-range oysters.) This is why oysters are listed as a Best Choice by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.

Are oysters really aphrodisiacs?

Yes, but you gotta truly believe.

How do I change my name that appears in comments and forums?
  1. Login and click Edit My Profile from the menu in the upper-right corner
  2. Under the Name section, update your “Nickname” (the default is your username)
  3. Under the Name section, update “Display name publicly as” by selecting the nickname you entered
  4. Click “Update Profile”
How do I get OysteRater on my iPhone or Android?
How do I keep a list of My Favorites?

To add a Favorite, click the Star icon from any oyster page. Do this when you are logged in to have favorites saved with your account. (recommended)  Your page of favorites are always available from the main navigation menu at top, under “Me”. Go to My Favorites.

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