Grilled Oysters, Chive Garlic Butter, Simple and Delicious

The old-timers used to say that oysters “r” in season for all the months with an “r” in the name, and the best time to eat them. Last I knew it wasn’t Jur-ly with Aurgust coming up but we had grilled oysters the other night and they were wonderful and very simply done.

It is a great sign, I think, that these particular oysters came from right off our island shore, being raised by a fellow who lives in Lincolnville. This kind of aquaculture, together with mussels being raised by an island couple, seems like the best sort. Hang a device in the saltwater, and let nature do most of the job.

I am not fond of raw oysters, so prying my way into one is not usually part of my oyster experience. Maybe the best part of grilling them that they open themselves. They can still be finger food if you decide to slurp them up straight from the shell, or they can be fork food. Get the grill good and hot, and set the oysters with the curved side down so the liquor doesn’t dribble out. It takes only a very few minutes before the oysters open; snatch them off the heat and put them on a tray or baking sheet. Lift off the flat top shell, run a knife under each oyster to loosen them, then drop a bit of herbed butter on each one.

If you prefer, your chive and garlic butter could be tarragon butter or it can have parsley or cilantro in it, or all of the above. Just make sure you chop the herbs and garlic very finely. A sprinkle of dry white wine (like a pinot grigio) is a good idea: put your thumb over the top of the bottle and shower wine over the tray of open and cooked oysters. If you don’t use wine, consider bit of lemon juice instead.

Oh, groan, but they were some good. Just don’t ask how many oysters you will need. The answer to that question will be something like “as many as you can eat” or “as many as you can afford.”

Grilled Oysters, Chive Garlic Butter, Simple and Delicious
  • ¼ cup or half a stick of butter
  • A clove of garlic
  • Chives
  • Parsley
  • Tarragon
  • Unshucked oysters
  • Pepper
  • Dry white wine or lemon juice
  1. Soften the butter without completely melting it.
  2. Finely chop the garlic and herbs and add them to the butter, stir.
  3. Heat the grill, then reduce the heat to medium.
  4. Place the unopened oysters on the grill with the curved side down.
  5. Close the lid and check after about three minutes, remove any oysters that have begun to open and put them on a baking sheet, taking all the oyster off as soon as they open.
  6. Lift off the top, flat shell, and run a knife under each to separate it from the shell.
  7. Drop a bit of the herbed butter on each oyster, sprinkle or grind fresh pepper over all, if you wish.
  8. Sprinkle white wine or lemon juice over all and serve.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.