Kitchen & Cooking

We ordered live oysters online—here's what happened

Treat yourself with fresh finds from the sea.

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With most restaurants across the country closed or operating at reduced capacity, celebrating graduations, birthdays, and other special occasions has been difficult—or at least different. Foodies and fine-diners have mostly put the brakes on, opting instead for home cooking and takeout.

But there are more options for fine dining at home than you might realize. Thanks to the delivery service from Massachusetts-based Island Creek Oysters, you can now have restaurant-quality oysters, caviar, and clams shipped right to your door. I've been using Island Creek's service for months—I'll walk you through how it works and why I love it.

What to know about Island Creek Oysters

What to know
Credit: Reviewed / Valerie Li Stack

The Island Creek oyster farm in Duxbury offered a tour that includes all-you-can-shuck oysters before the lockdown started.

The Island Creek restaurant chain, though famous in the Boston area, has kept a relatively low profile nationwide. However, their oyster farm has garnered acclaim from Michelin-starred chefs, food media, and restaurant enthusiasts across the country. From Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin to Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, many of the world's best tasting menus feature Island Creek’s signature oysters.

Last year, I went on a farm tour at the facility in Duxbury, Mass. After learning about the operations at the hatchery and sampling a variety of oysters raised at the farm, I understood why their oysters are some of the finest I’ve ever tasted. In addition to oysters, Island Creek also sells caviar, clams, merch, and shucking tools.

How do you order their oysters online?

How to order
Credit: Island Creek Oysters

You can not only order fresh oysters, but also caviar, clams, and tinned fish from Island Creek Oysters.

The ordering process for Island Creek Oysters is straightforward: Pick your box, pick the date you want it to be delivered, and then go to checkout.

Their locally raised offerings include the Island Creek ($105 for 50, $140 for 100, or $210 for 200), the Aunt Dotty, and the Row 34. The latter two are priced the same, $85 for 50 or $115 for 100.

On each variety’s page, there’s a detailed description of its flavor profile and how it’s grown, as the different growing conditions give each variety their unique taste. Row 34 oysters, which are transferred to off-bottom trays when they’re six months old, taste cleaner and less vegetal than the signature Island Creeks, as the oysters never directly interact with the bottom of the bay.

Are the oysters worth the price and shipment?

Price and shipment

Even on hot days, the oysters remain cool inside the ice box.

The box may seem pricey at first, but the cost per oyster actually works out to be quite reasonable. Depending on how many you purchase, it can be as cheap as $1 per oyster with shipping and packaging included, which is a bargain compared to what you’d pay at restaurants.

My family has been ordering from them about once a month since the lockdown started—we miss going out, and the taste of the ocean brings joy while staying inside all the time. Each delivery, fulfilled by FedEx, has made it to our front porch on time as expected, with recyclable gel packs to ensure the oysters can stay cold and “chill” in transit. In the pack, there’s a “Time Temperature Indicator” to guarantee the oysters don’t reach 45°F for more than two hours.

Island Creek offers free overnight shipping to all 50 states on their oysters and other seafood. I haven't experienced any delays since the pandemic started.

How to take care of the live oysters

How to care for your oysters
Credit: Eataly

To make shucking easier, you'll need a pair of gloves and a sharp shucking knife.

Live oysters, just like live fish, should be stored in an environment that resembles their natural habitat. Island Creek ships them in a Styrofoam box, which is fine for the short term, but you may want to transfer the oysters to a large bowl, cover them with a damp towel, and store them in the fridge for later use. If stored properly, the oysters can “live” in the fridge for up to 10 days.

Next comes shucking. Shucking oysters may seem effortless if someone else is doing it for you—but the skill requires some practice to perfect. The first thing you’ll want to do is to take safety precautions so you don’t wind up hurting yourself. You’ll need a pair of cut resistant gloves and a heavy duty apron to protect yourself from injury. Next, you’ll need a durable shucking knife that helps open the tough shells.

First, place an oyster in your palm with the cupped side down and the flatter side facing up. Then, look for the hinge where the two sides meet. Insert the shucking knife between the shells near the hinge and pop the shell open by twisting the knife. We’ve found Island Creek oysters much easier to shuck than other Atlantic oysters that we’ve shucked at home.

Is Island Creek’s oyster delivery service right for you?

Should you order
Credit: Reviewed / Valerie Li Stack

Trust me, shucking oysters isn't too hard if you have the right tools.

If you love oysters and are comfortable shucking them yourself, then go for it. Island Creek's oysters are a great way to celebrate special occasions at home, and they make a lovely gift for the friends and family that you may not be able to see right now. We actually ordered a box of 50 oysters for our relatives in New York and they loved it! The seamless delivery and thorough packaging make the experience worth the price.

In the time of COVID-19, with dining out considered a high-risk activity, it can be difficult to connect with our loved ones and support our local fishing industry. Luckily, regardless of your geographical location, you can get the taste of the ocean delivered to your door.

If you’re looking for other care packages to send to your loved ones in these trying times, we’ve reviewed the best subscription boxes for home bakers, meat lovers, tea aficionados, and more.

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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