Oyster Roast 101: How to put out a Seafood Spread like a Seasoned Pro

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It's oyster season in Myrtle Beach, and there's no better way to celebrate the occasion than by throwing your very own oyster roast. What's that, you don't know how?

No worries, as we say here at the beach. These tips on how to hold an oyster roast will have you serving up this tasty and time-honored seafood spread like a seasoned pro.

First step, of course, is finding the oysters. Sure, you can dig around in the pluff mud for hours digging up these juicy mollusks, or you can find them at any local seafood market. But be sure to buy South Carolina oysters fresh from local waters.

South Carolina oysters are different from the more popular Apalachicola Bay (FL) variety. They are smaller but come in large clusters, so a savvy shucker can find a handful in one block. They are also juicier and saltier, with a flavor that tastes just like the sea.

First step, give the clusters a good rinsing with a garden hose or a sink sprayer, discarding any shells that have cracked open. This not only removes all the pluff mud and washes away bacteria, it also helps create the steam to cook them in their shells.

Now you need a good heat source, like an outdoor fire pit or a gas or charcoal grill with a grate large enough to hold a few dozen oysters and high enough to avoid direct flames. You also need a burlap sack (nice seafood dealers put your oysters in one).

Fold the burlap sack until it's roughly the size of your cooking surface and soak it in water (some folks swear by sea water). Arrange rows of oysters on the grill and cover them with the burlap sack, which heats evenly and creates steam in the entire cluster.

This part is tricky because oysters can cook at varying rates based on size and heat. After about 10 minutes, remove the sack and use tongs to remove the oysters that have started to pop open, but not too wide or the oyster will lose its juicy goodness.

Place the ready ones in a pan and let your guests dig in since they are best piping hot. Guests can use a butter knife if the oysters are steamed perfectly, but an oyster knife is recommended. Set out forks, drawn butter, hot sauce, crackers and napkins.

Don't forget a large can for guests to discard their empty shells. If you think recycling other renewable products is important, it's even more so to do so with oyster shells, which are used create new oyster beds, so help your grandchildren enjoy this same experience in the future.

Sadly, there’s a certain percentage of the population that does not enjoy the culinary benefits of oysters so an alternate dish may be in order. In South Carolina, Frogmore Stew, or Lowcountry Bowl, gives guests a great taste of local seafood without the slimy mollusks.

Put 2 pounds of fresh local shrimp, a dozen blue crabs, 2 pounds of smoked sausage cut into 1-inch pieces, 2 pounds of red potatoes and a dozen ears of corn into a large pot of salt water and add Old Bay seasoning and cold beer to taste. Bring to a boil and cover for about 5-10 minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink.

Drain the water from the pot and dump the contents onto a covered picnic table so guests can make a plate with the ingredients of their choice. Once done, simply fold the table cloth up with the spare parts inside and throw it in the trash can for quick and easy clean-up.

(Posted: 11/17/14)