The quintessential oyster roast likely originated in the southeast as a Native American tradition, of roasting shellfish, including oysters, with a crowd over an open fire. Today, you’ll find southern oyster roasts are still very much a social activity and often the marker of celebrations and reunions. They are particularly common around Thanksgiving, throughout the holidays, and into the New Year, when the excuse to roast oysters over an open fire has always been intimately tied to place and time: winter in the southeast, a celebration of bounty—of food, friends, and family, in increasingly cooler months.
If you don’t like raw oysters, it’s more likely that you’ll partake in the roasted version, which are warm, smoky, and just a little less fishy. And if you love oysters raw, there’s always plenty to go around for taste-testing. This is what is so great about the oyster roast—there is a little bit of both to go around, not to mention the adventure in the process, that’s pleasing and appealing to a festive crowd. All you need for serving is this cocktail sauce, care of Roscoe Hall, and maybe some extra lemon wedges for serving: a combination of puckering acidity and sweetness, hot and cold. Enjoy your very own oyster roast with an ice cold beer, bundled in your favorite flannel, among friends who are sure to give you a hand with the process: everything about winter in the south in a nutshell (or shall we say, oyster shell?).
What you need
1 Bushel Per 5-6 People Oysters
- Cocktail Sauce
1 Cup Heinz Ketchup
1 TBSP Hot Sauce, such as Louisiana
2 TBSP Lemon Juice
2 TBSP Horseradish
2 Dashes Pickapeppa Sauce or Worcestershire Sauce
1 Pinch Fresh Cracked Pepper
What You Need
- Oysters (you should factor about a bushel of oysters for every 5 or 6 people)
- Large burlap sack (any large, thick, un-precious towel will also do)
- Water Source
- Flat, heat-proof surface such as sheet metal
- Cinder blocks, for raising the cook surface above the fire
- Oyster Shuckers
- Sturdy oyster-shucking gloves or a thick kitchen towel
- A large, clean metal shovel, for transferring cooked oysters
- Your favorite fireside beer, for drinking
Build a pit: arrange masonry cinder blocks around a fire pit. On these blocks, place a flat, heat-proof surface such as a piece of sheet metal (we’d recommend 4 feet by 4 feet—if you can find a “rimmed” sheet of metal to keep oysters from sliding off or the burlap from tumbling over the edge, all the better!)
Rinse oysters well
Set up a fire close with proximate access to a water source, arrange cinder blocks in four corners and place sheet metal overtop when the fire begins to die down. As soon as the metal is hot enough, add the oysters and cover with a wet burlap sack, re-wetting it and repeating the process as needed.
When oysters begin to open, use a large, clean shovel to remove the oysters and transfer them to a table lined with plastic, newspaper, or butcher paper, letting the sheet metal reheat and repeating the process as needed.
Keep the burlap wet—this is what creates steam and creates the moist, smoky environment that ensures the oysters are cooked evenly.