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Oyster etiquette: do's and don'ts for first-timers

Oyster etiquette, man eating oyster

Oysters are a delicacy enjoyed by many, but they can be intimidating for first-timers. Whether you’re at a fine dining restaurant or an oyster bar, knowing the proper etiquette can enhance your experience and impress your dining companions.

This guide covers the essential do's and don'ts for enjoying oysters, from selection to savouring.

2. Do: choose the right oysters

Start with the basics—choosing the right oysters. Freshness is key. Look for oysters that are tightly closed or close when tapped. If an oyster is open and doesn’t close, it’s best to avoid it. If you’re unsure, ask the server or vendor for recommendations.

3. Don’t: forget to smell them

A fresh oyster should smell like the ocean—clean and briny. If it has an off or fishy smell, it’s likely not fresh. Trust your nose as much as your eyes when selecting oysters.

4. Do: use the right tools

If you’re shucking oysters yourself, ensure you have the proper tools. A good oyster knife and a thick cloth or glove to protect your hand are essential. Follow safe shucking techniques to avoid injury.

5. Don’t: drench them in condiments

Oysters have a delicate flavour that can be easily overwhelmed. While mignonette sauce, lemon, and a touch of hot sauce can enhance the taste, avoid drowning your oyster in condiments. Start with a small amount and taste before adding more.

6. Do: chew your oysters

While it might be tempting to swallow an oyster whole, chewing is essential to appreciate its full flavour. Give it a few good chews to release its natural brininess and texture.

7. Don’t: neglect the shell etiquette

After eating, place the oyster shell back on the serving platter with the deep shell down. This small gesture keeps the presentation tidy and shows respect for the shared dining experience.

8. Do: pair with the right drink

Enhance your oyster experience with the right beverage. Champagne, white wine, and certain beers complement the flavours of oysters beautifully. Check out our guide on finding the perfect wine match for oysters for more tips.

9. Don’t: be afraid to ask questions

If you’re new to oysters, don’t hesitate to ask questions. Whether it’s about the different varieties, the best way to eat them, or how they’re sourced, asking questions can enhance your appreciation and enjoyment.


Mastering oyster etiquette can turn a potentially daunting experience into a delightful one. By following these do's and don'ts, you’ll not only enjoy oysters more but also impress your fellow diners with your knowledge and confidence.

Ready to dive deeper into the world of oysters? Explore our article on unique ways to serve oysters at your next gathering. For fresh, expertly sourced oysters, look no further than Sydney Oyster Girls.


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