Written by Emily Storrow | Photography by Jonathan Boncek
With Joe DiMaio, executive chef of the Darling Oyster Bar in Charleston, South Carolina
In the words of M.F.K. Fisher, “An oyster leads a dreadful but exciting life.” But where that life is led means everything. Raw bars astound with countless varieties, each with distinct flavor, yet there are only five kinds of oysters harvested in the US. The differences come from geography, how they’re raised, and the water they constantly filter. For instance, Alabama’s Isle Dauphine oyster and the smaller Chunu variety from Virginia are the same species, but the former has a salty, rich profile while the latter’s environment produces something milder and clean-tasting. Regardless of type, oysters taste best when you’ve shucked your own. When it comes to opening one, keep a few things in mind. Always use protection: A glove or towel will keep your oyster-holding hand safe from the knife. Muscles attach the animal to both its shells—one is flat and one has a belly, which holds the oyster and its liquor. You’ll need to sever both of these muscles, sometimes a tricky task while simultaneously balancing the bivalve to prevent spilling. And remember, if you aren’t eating oysters immediately after shucking, store them in their juice in a clean bowl and use within twenty-four hours.