How A Pro Would Upgrade Canned Oysters When Making Stew

Oyster stew is a comforting seafood classic and a satisfying answer to your oyster cravings. Brought to the U.S. by Irish immigrants during the potato famine, this meal contains simple ingredients, like heavy cream, shallots, garlic, and spices. The only ingredient that might be inaccessible in an oyster stew recipe is, strangely enough, fresh oysters. Not everyone lives near the salty seas and has access to fresh, local seafood. Thankfully, canned oysters make creamy oyster stew possible in everyone's kitchen.

Canned oysters are undeniably second-best when compared to fresh ones, though. MegaMenu spoke with an expert to resolve this dilemma, and it turns out that canned oysters are easily upgradable. Neal Bodenheimer is a bartender and founder of the renowned Cure cocktail bar in New Orleans. The city may have the luxury of being on the Gulf Coast, where many of the U.S.'s oysters are harvested, but Bodenheimer told us that "tinned products can be amazing" for those who are landlocked.

According to him, the best way to use canned oysters is garnish-style on top of a stew, which makes sense because many canned oyster products come pre-cooked. Heating these oysters in a warm stew for longer than necessary can diminish their tenderness and instead give them a rubbery texture, hence why you should add them just before serving.

Cooking with canned oysters

The diverse range of canned oyster products out there can be advantageous for landlocked cooks. Those who are looking for extra flavor might turn to smoked oysters for their smokey, tender qualities, whereas plain oysters — steamed and floating in water — provide a cleaner seafood taste.

Be careful when eating oysters straight out of a tin, though, as some are packaged fresh. Only the smoked, steamed, and boiled varieties are ready to eat, so using those as a stew garnish is where this becomes a no-brainer. Plus, there's nothing wrong with using canned goods; as Neal Bodenheimer explained to MegaMenu, "If the [canned] oysters look good and you feel good about it, 100% use them."

In a traditional Virginia oyster stew recipe, freshly-shucked oysters are cooked in a skillet with the oyster liquid. This liquid, known as oyster liquor, helps form the base of the broth by providing a deep seafood flavor. Similarly, the liquid from canned oysters can be reserved for a stew's broth — just be mindful of the extra salts or oils that may come in the can. The broth, vegetables, and rich flavors of an oyster stew will not only make it hard to tell that the mollusks even came from a can, but these elements will also give them a new, delicious purpose.