Oysters divide a lot of food lovers into two teams: those that love them, and those that hate them.
Regardless of how you feel about oysters, they are packed full of protein while having very low levels of fat, as well as containing some of the most vital elements you need to keep healthy, including selenium, vitamin D and B12, iron, and others.
Oysters are best eaten straight away, at their peak freshness, but what if you’ve bought a lot, and you know you won’t eat them all before they go bad?
The good news is that you can freeze oysters (see also Freezing Clam Chowder), provided that you’re careful about the oysters you choose to freeze, when you choose to freeze them, and how you should defrost and cook them.
That’s not to say that freezing oysters won’t alter them, though. Thawed oysters will have more of a fishy taste than fresh oysters, and the consistency is noticeably softer, so use them in stews or soups to get the best out of them.
Oysters: How To Avoid Getting Ill
There are a few general rules that you should follow when it comes to eating oysters, especially when it comes to freezing them for a later date.
The freezing process kills oysters, so always cook them when they are defrosted.
Never eat defrosted raw oysters, as this will most likely lead to food poisoning. The only safe way to eat a raw oyster is when it is alive, and the freshest it can possibly be.
Whenever you buy oysters, and you get them home, make sure that you check for any dead ones and discard them. This is the same process as checking for dead mussels (see also Can You Freeze Mussels), as eating either can result in a nasty hospital trip.
Luckily, dead oysters are easy to spot. If you can open a shell of an oyster without any effort at all, it’s dead, and you should get rid of it immediately. Dead oysters cannot hold their shells closed, while live ones do.
Once you’ve picked out any dead oysters, wash the remainder in cool water to remove anything that shouldn’t be there.
How Do You Freeze Oysters?
Once you sorted the live oysters from the dead ones and washed them, prepare a large resealable freezer bag. Fill it with vegetable broth or cool water, whichever you prefer, and fill the bag with the oysters.
Squeeze out any excess air, and seal the bag. Only keep them in the freezer for a maximum of 3 months, and after that you shouldn’t eat them, as harmful bacteria can make you very ill.
How Do You Thaw Frozen Oysters Safely?
When it’s time to use the oysters, when you take the bag out of the freezer, look for any frostbite. If there’s any large ice crystals on the oysters, it would be safer to throw them out.
While most foods defrost best in the fridge, this isn’t the case with oysters. You need to put them straight into a steamer or broth, and cook them straight away.
This is to avoid any harmful bacterial growth, as the oysters are dead, and cooking and eating them without wasting any time is the only safe method.
Oysters are easy to freeze. As long as you follow the tips outlined above, freezing oysters is a safe and worthwhile practice as it cuts down on food waste, and it will also help save you money.
Another benefit of freezing them is that you don’t have to rinse them the second time around. Having said that, it is still worth checking the oysters, weeding out any that seem too discolored or otherwise unsafe to eat, as these extra minutes will save you a lot of time and pain in the long run.
Keep in mind that once you have frozen oysters, the only way to defrost them is to cook them straight away when you want to use them. Aim to use them as soon as possible to preserve their unique flavor.
If you prefer fresh oysters, and you’re not a fan of them in soups or stews, you’d be better off eating them fresh instead of trying to freeze them for later.