• Oysters from Etang de Thau - © Atout France/Nathalie Baetens

    Oysters from Etang de Thau - © Atout France/Nathalie Baetens

Guide: French oysters – select, taste and serve the delicacy of the sea

Guide: French oysters – select, taste and serve the delicacy of the sea

Au natural, with lemon, vinegar or maybe even au gratin. Here are our tips on how to choose, taste and serve the French oysters.

It hardly gets more festive than oysters and a glass of champagne – and what better place to enjoy the two delicacies than in France! But then the waiter poses the question: "what kind?" And you are left wondering.

An oyster is namely much more than just an oyster. There are endless possibilities when it comes to the small treasure of the sea and its many variations and flavors. We have made it easier for you to impress your date or your friends – whether you feel like throwing yourself into the oyster cooking at home or at a restaurant in a romantic little harbor in France.

 

Choose your oyster – an ocean of possibilities

  • Le Belon de Bretagne: this flat oyster is known for its high quality and has a delicate taste with notes of wood.
  • L'huître d'Arcathon: Here we have a "huître creuse", also known as a cupped oyster, which origins from the Aquitaine region, with a sizeable amount of flesh and a very distinctive taste. It is one of the most renowned oysters among the connoisseurs.
  • L'huître de Bouzigues: This deep shelled oyster comes from the southern part of France (Étang de Thau), its taste has notes of hazelnut to it and this oyster is very appreciated by gourmets.
  • L'huître Marennes-Oléron: This type of oyster from Charente-Maritime is labeled with the Label-Rouge quality mark. the Label-Rouge mark is granted by the French Ministry of agriculture to a wide range of agricultural products of particular quality. The taste of this oyster is quite significant.
  • L'huître de la Baie de Bourgneuf: Oysters of this kind come from Vendée-Atlantique and were pronounced to be the best oysters in France in the 18th century.
  • L'huître d'Isigny sur Mer: This oyster is bred in Normandy and has an almost crispy texture while the taste consists tones of iodine. Ideal for small and neat dishes.

 

How to eat your oyster

Oysters are traditionally served fresh with a slice of lemon, a piece of dark bread with butter and a glass of chilled white wine. But you can also enjoy them au naturel, with vinegar, poached, au gratin with camembert or champagne, stuffed with parsley/garlic butter or in a soup along with vegetables.

The fresher the oyster, the better. So if you are looking to really spoil yourself, take a trip to one of the many areas in France especially known for their oysters, and enjoy this eatable pearl of the ocean at the port, fresh in from the sea.

Today sterile oysters are produced all year round, but traditionally you do not eat oysters in summer, where they are spawning, and as a result, the texture gets milky. An old rule says that you can eat oysters during months that have an "r" in the name; January, February, March, April, September, October, November and December. Of course, you can eat the delicate mollusk at any time of the year, but they are significantly more delicate during winter, spring, and autumn.

 

Our practical advice

If you are going to serve oysters yourself, make sure that the oysters are completely closed and rather heavy, before opening them – it is a sign of freshness.

The deep shelled oysters are often the easiest ones to open. To do so, you will need an oyster knife and a tablecloth. Using the tablecloth, take a firm grip on the deep shell so that the flat end is facing upwards. Make sure that the hand with which you are holding the oyster is completely covered by the tablecloth, so that it is protected in case the knife should slip. Then you put the knife between the two shells in the pointy end twisting it from side to side, until the shells come loose. Then you slide the knife along the side of the shell.

If the oyster has a bad smell to it or is completely dry on the inside, you should toss it out. If it's fresh, throw the water from the oyster away, and after a couple of minutes, it will produce new water. Now the oyster is ready to be served or cooked.

Bon appétit!