Possibly the most popular questions we receive is: "How do I store my oysters?"
The most important principle to remember is that oysters should be kept cold until they're cooked or eaten, but there's a little bit more to it to keep them alive, fresh and safe.
Good storage starts when you pick them up. Wherever you get your oysters, they should be coming out of cold storage. Once they come out of cold storage, the clock starts on you getting them back into cold storage. You have a max of two hours to accomplish this. After two hours, bacteria present in the oyster will start to multiply and the likelihood of something causing an illness will go up. The oyster itself won’t be bothered by this and will still look and taste just fine, so don’t rely on that alone as a way to judge if they are safe to eat. This is the same rule that applies to all meat products. It is just extra important with oysters since the likelihood of them being eaten raw is pretty high.
If you have a cooler with you when you pick up your oysters, make sure that you have enough ice/cold packs to actually keep them cold. You also want the oysters to sit on top of ice/cold packs and ideally not touch the sides of your cooler. Heat will transfer into your cooler from the bottom and sides first, so you want that heat hitting ice instead of oysters. Also, if you are using ice, this will keep the oysters sitting up on the ice and not down in the ice melt. Oysters and fresh water don’t go together.
Once you get them home, they should go straight into your refrigerator. The FDA recommends fridges be kept at 40 degrees fahrenheit or below. This works well for oysters, as at 40 degrees, they think it is winter time and they’ll basically go into inactive mode. It is also best if you can keep them from drying out. The easiest thing to do is just put them in a bowl with a damp cloth over them. It doesn’t have to be enough to drip on them, just enough so that the shells won’t dry out. This will help ensure a maximum shelf life.
Kept at a proper temperature and prevented from drying out, an oyster can live in your fridge for up to a month, or even a little longerHowever, understand that the longer your oysters are out of the water, the more likely you are to lose a few. Always check to make sure the oysters are closed before you eat them.
It is recommended that if you are going to eat them raw that you do it within 7-10 days of the harvest date. To find out the harvest date, ask the place you are getting your oysters from to check for you, or to show you the harvest tag. If you get them from us the tag should be in the bag when you get your oysters. After the 7-10 days it is recommended that you cook the oyster as the flavor and texture of the oyster can begin to change and it might not taste as good raw. Pretty much, the longer it is out of the water, the stronger, more concentrated the flavor will become. If the oyster is still closed, it is safe and you can still eat it raw. Shucking champion Shucker Paddy did a two part Instagram post on this for oysters he kept in the fridge for over 30 days. However, please note that it is super important that your fridge hold at the proper temperature. Remember that a live oyster is not necessarily a safe oyster.
If you know you aren’t going to eat the oysters for a bit, just shuck and freeze them. Use a freezer safe container, shuck them, stick as much liquor in the container as you can and then add water to cover the oysters.
If you want to store them in a cooler for whatever reason, that is perfectly fine. With that said, we do not recommend doing this unless you are going to be eating them soon. Oysters will tolerate being kept on ice, but it is not the ideal. Oyster do not like being cold, and while keeping them on ice at 33 degrees might not seem like that much less than 40 degrees in the fridge, it is possible that it will shorten the shelf life of the oyster. Plus, you are now having to check that you have enough ice and that you oysters aren’t sitting in water. And if they are in there long enough, at some point you’ll need to repack them to make sure there is ice all around them, not just on top.