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Each year, we consume more than 2 kg of oysters per French person and per year. Oysters are good, aren't they?

France is the country in the world that consumes the most oysters with more than 2 Kg per year and per inhabitant. Just for the holidays, the time when they are traditionally consumed the most, France consumes more than 60,000 tons of oysters. It is also the 2nd producer country. Since when we consume oysters in France, and especially how to consume oysters: answers and advices from Monsieur de France.


Humanity has always consumed oysters.


And that forces the respect, admit it, for the one who tasted an oyster for the first time. It was necessary to open it, already, and to launch out to taste something which does not make desire at first sight not? In short! Oysters were already consumed in Ancient Greece. The shells were used to vote.The Romans loved oysters and they more or less invented oyster farming. A little bit out of fashion in the Middle Ages, when they became what we ate at the seaside when we didn't have much to eat, they came back in fashion from the Renaissance onwards. They are eaten without shells and rather cooked.



In France, the passion begins with the 17th century


Le Déjeuner d'huîtres (et de champagne) du roi Louis XV au château de Versailles. Illustration choisie par : tableau de Jean-François de Troy (1735). 

The oyster (and champagne) lunch of King Louis XV at the Palace of Versailles. Illustration chosen by painting by Jean-François de Troy (1735).


Oysters are very much in demand since the XVIIth century, especially at the Court of the Kings of France or in the castles. People managed to get them even though they were far from the sea in some places. They are often represented in still life by European painters. The 18th century adores them and they appear not only on aristocratic tables but also on bourgeois tables. It was in the 19th century that the hollow oyster, the most widespread today, arrived in France and is native of the Pacific Ocean. In the past, we used to eat flat oysters. We continue to breed them in Brittany. They are called belons. They are rarer and they require a fresher water and especially deeper than the hollow oysters.



Consumption today and production areas.


France is the country that consumes the most oysters in the world. On average 2 kg per year and per inhabitant. Just at the time of the holidays, when they are consumed the most, 60,000 tons of oysters, that is to say nearly half of the annual French production, are seen on the tables. With 130,000 tons produced each year, France is the leading exporter in Europe. It must be said that French oysters are of a rare finesse and that the production areas are numerous and varied. We find oysters from BrittanyCancale, near Saint Malo in Brittany, has made a specialty of it. You can even eat them "back from fishing" in the port of La Houle. They are also found in southern Brittany. Normandy also produces a lot of them, around the Mont Saint Michel, but also between the Cotentin and the Calvados. In the West, there is the Vendée and of course the famous Marennes-Oleron oysters, produced in Charente-Maritime, not far from La Rochelle and the Ile d'Oléron. Still in the West, but lower down, there are the oysters of the Arcachon basin. They are also found in the South of France, on the Mediterranean side .


Quelques huîtres, un trait de citron pour ceux qui aiment... Quoi demander de plus ? Photo choisie par Monsieurdefrance.Com : Natalia Lisovskaya / Shutterstock.Com

Some oysters, a dash of lemon for those who like... What more could you ask for? Photo chosen by Monsieurdefrance.Com : Natalia Lisovskaya / Shutterstock.Com



Oyster sizes


Oysters are traditionally sold in dozens in France, in "bourriches", a kind of rounded and closed crate which allows to preserve them better. There are several calibers. To find your way around, you should know that the bigger the number, the smaller the oyster. Thus, an oyster "0" is huge and an oyster "5" is very small. In general, we eat "3" or "4" sizes.

For your information:

  • Size 0: more than 150 grams (the size of a steak for one person!)
  • Caliber 1: 121-150 grams
  • Caliber 2: 86 - 120 grams
  • Caliber 3: 66 - 85 grams
  • Caliber 4 : 46 - 65 grams
  • Caliber 5 : 30 - 45 grams



The virtues of the oyster


Already, like all sea products, it contains iodine. It is also rich in magnesium, which is good for fighting fatigue. It is rich in potassium and manganese, in calcium and selenium, and above all, even if it is fatty, it is not caloric since 8 hollow oysters caliber 3 is only 70 calories. Some people also say thatit is an aphrodisiac and that it would be useful for the gentleman when he has a little tiredness...



Different French oysters :


The gilardeau: it is often the most expensive. It is also said to be the best. Maybe because it has a little sweet aftertaste. The "pousse en clair" from Marennes-Oléron is renowned for its long finish. It is produced in very low density. The Utah Beach, from Normandy, is the best value for money. It is fine, long in the mouth and has a lively bite. It is also worth tasting the "fine de claire" oyster from Marennes-Oleron, the Isigny from Normandy or the "Pied de Cheval", the flat oyster from Cancale in Brittany.


En France, on accompagne toujours la présentation des huîtres par un peu de citron (et un rince-doigts au restaurant). Photo choisie par :



How to eat oysters?


First, eat them as fresh as possible. They can be kept for a few days between 5 and 10°C but the ideal is to eat them the same day or the day after you buy them. In France, they are usually eaten raw. But nothing prevents you from making them gratinate in the oven, it is delicious.



How to open oysters?


There are plenty of tutorials on the internet. The main thing is to have a short knife, to go slowly, and to always have your hand in a cloth (there are also special gloves). Hold the oyster in your hand. With the other hand, put your thumb as close as possible to the end of the blade and insert it on the right side of the oyster and at the level of the two thirds of its height. This is where the muscle is located that you are going to cut by advancing the blade. Then you move the shell and lift it. Be careful, you can hurt yourself. You throw away the water contained in the oyster, which will make again "its water" and it will be good to taste. You can buy the oysters shucked by the fishmonger, but be careful, you will have to taste them the same day.



How to taste the oysters ?


The best is to open them 20 minutes before eating them. But you can also do it as soon as they are opened. Eating an oyster is very simple, you just swallow it or slide it in your mouth. You can eventually squeeze the oyster a little bit by scraping the sides of the shell with your knife or your fork. Be careful not to make too much noise while sucking them. It is impolite.

Always chew the oyster before swallowing. It tastes better. And besides, you kill the oyster. And it's better because, after all, it lives for another 2 hours and a half in your stomach if you don't chew it...

They can also be eaten with a dash of fresh lemon juice (for the tourists, you will see that they always offer lemon with the oysters). Some people like it with a little shallot vinaigrette.



What do you drink with oysters?


They are always served with a dry white wine. In Brittany, as in the port of Cancale, you can make a good fresh muscadet. You can also make a Chablis or a Sancerre. That said, a good Sylvaner from Alsace lends itself wonderfully to an oyster tasting. In any case, avoid red wines, or bright and very light ones, and especially avoid sweet wines. Champagne is out of category, it goes with everything, even with oysters. But still... A good Muscadet...


Pour accompagner les huîtres, prenez toujours un vin blanc sec et frais. Illustration choisie par :

To accompany oysters, always take a dry and fresh white wine. Illustration chosen by



A little vinaigrette to go with the oysters


A quick recipe if you want to enjoy your oysters with a shallot vinaigrette.


The ingredients

  • 25 grams of shallots,
  • 3 tablespoons of wine vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons of oil (olive oil is better)
  • 1 bit of pepper, and 2 pinches of salt

The process

  1. You chop your shallots finely
  2. You mix them with vinegar and a little pepper
  3. Add this mixture to the oil and mix with two pinches of salt.

You can also mix the wine and the shallots by putting the shallots in the container, then the vinegar, then a little salt, then a little pepper, then the oil that you will mix briskly.

It is not impossible that there are translation errors. We told our translator not to drink too much muscadet with the oysters and he didn't listen to us...

Alcohol abuse is dangerous for your health, consume in moderation.

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme is "monsieur de France" the author of this site.