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Whole oysters on a wooden surface.
Image Credit: Boltenkoff/iStock/Getty Images

Oysters are a delicious luxury food that can be unhealthy if improperly prepared and cooked. Always select live oysters when preparing them whole. Dead or older oyster flesh may contain bacteria that can cause vomiting or other nasty symptoms. Oysters contain less than 2 percent fat and over 8 percent protein. They also have vitamin A, calcium, potassium and other useful vitamins and minerals for your general health. Steaming and baking offer straightforward ways to cook whole oysters.

Steamed Whole Oysters

Step 1

Clean the oysters with a scrubbing brush to remove any weeds or debris from the shells. Discard any oysters that have opened or have smashed shells and exposed meat.

Step 2

Place the oysters in a steamer. Don't stack too many on top of each other or cram them together. Place a single layer of oysters on the steamer base if possible. Put the lid on the steamer.

Step 3

Steam the oysters until all of the shells open. Once open, continue steaming for five to nine minutes, according to the Ohio State University Extension.

Step 4

Throw away any oysters that don't open after steaming. Remove all open steamed oysters from the steamer and serve straight away with a squeeze of lemon or Tabasco sauce.

Baked Whole Oysters

Step 1

Wash and inspect the oysters for damage. Arrange clean and fresh whole oysters on a baking tray. Lay each oyster round side down to help retain the liquid inside and keep the oyster moist. Balance the oysters against each other to keep them steady on the tray.

Step 2

Set the oven to 500 degrees F. Place the tray in the oven.

Step 3

Cook for 15 to 35 minutes, depending on how many oysters you have on the tray and how large the oysters are.

Step 4

Remove each oyster from the oven when its shell pops and lifts open slightly. Keep cooking the rest of the oysters until each shell lid lifts. Discard oysters that are still closed after 35 minutes. Serve and eat immediately.

Things You'll Need

  • Scrubbing brush

  • Steamer

  • Lemon

  • Tabasco

  • Pepper

  • Baking tray


Try adding different toppings to whole oysters once opened, such as cheese or grilled bacon.


Leave frozen oysters in the fridge for four hours to defrost. Cook immediately. Buy fresh whole oysters from a reliable source -- don't use old or smelly oysters. Use gloves to handle baked oysters. The shells get very hot.

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