Grilling Shellfish

Korean Grilled Shellfish video

by Roz Cummins

It’s hard to believe that Memorial Day is here already. It seems like just last week that I was cursing the snow and leaving muddy boots on a tray by the door. The Kick-off Weekend of the summer has arrived, though, so it’s time to put the boots away, drag the grill out of the basement, sit in a lawn chair, and wonder where the time went, preferably while drinking an iced tea.

In the past I’ve written about the decision tree necessary to try to figure out which fish are a good choice for grilling from a structural (can it stand up to the grill?), health (contaminants?), and environmental (ocean-friendly?) perspective. (I am happy to say that in the time since I wrote that article in 2008, swordfish are now more plentiful, but they do still have a mercury caution.)

Today, however, I am going to focus on grilling shellfish. The first time I saw somebody grillclams, oysters, and mussels directly on the grill I couldn’t believe it: I had never seen anybody do that before. It seemed like some kind of crazy magic trick. Add heat to the shellfish and they pop right open! Although crowd-pleasing and dramatic, it’s also one of the easiest ways of preparing shellfish. After all, all you need is fire, a grate, and some clams, mussels, and oysters – true “shipwrecked on a desert island” cuisine.

People who grill clams and mussels usually just put them directly onto the grill without opening them first: the heat of the grill will make them open. (Of course you want to check to make sure that they are still alive before you put them over the heat. You do this by seeing if they are shut tight, and if there are some that aren’t already closed, tap them to see if they shut. If they don’t shut right away, toss them out.)

As far as oysters go, some people like to cook them in the half shell while other put them on the grill still closed in their whole shell. Some cooks open them slightly but not all the way, letting the heat do most of the work.

Chow’s Andrew Leonard shows how he grills oysters

You may want to have some lemon, flavored butter, or cocktail sauce on hand to enhance your enjoyment of the grilled shellfish, or you might want to enjoy the smoky flavor they pick up from the grill all on its own.

Best of all, clams, mussels, and oysters are all ocean-friendly. They are filter feeders and actually clean the waters in which they are grown.

Have a great summer!

Bobby Flay grills clams

Bobby Flay grills oyster

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