Oysters and Holiday Safety

Lots of Virginians will be eating oysters and making dishes that include them this holiday season. Whether you steam them or stuff them into your turkey, make sure you follow some simple safety tips.

Oysters may contain harmful bacteria and viruses that can make you sick. Purchasing oysters from retail stores is one good way to make sure you and others can enjoy oysters safely.

It’s also a good idea to keep oysters refrigerated or on ice in a cooler.

Before cooking the oysters, throw away any that have open shells. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shellfish should be cooked as follows:

  • Oysters will open when cooked. Steam them for 4 to 9 minutes or boil them after they open for another 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Shucked oysters look opaque.
  • Don’t eat any oysters that didn’t open fully during cooking.

If you’re stuffing the turkey with oyster dressing, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends the following:

  • Cook the turkey and dressing to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees. The safest way to cook dressing is to bake it in a casserole dish.
  • Prepare the stuffing right before it is put into the oven. The wet and dry ingredients for the stuffing should be prepared separately and mixed right before they are used.
  • Stuff the turkey loosely, about ¾ cup of stuffing per pound of turkey. Extra stuffing should be cooked in a greased casserole dish.

What if the oysters you plan to eat already have been shucked?

  • Boil them for at least 3 minutes.
  • Fry them in oil for at least 3 minutes at 375 degrees.
  • Broil them 3 inches from direct heat for 3 minutes.
  • Bake them for 10 minutes at 450 degrees.

Oysters are frequently eaten raw this time of year, however some people with chronic illness or who have cancer are at an increased risk for serious illness or even death and should not eat them.

After preparing oysters and other seafood for the holiday season, make sure you wash your hands with soap and water and clean your surfaces.

Don’t forget to refrigerate your leftovers in shallow containers within 2 hours.