How Big Is too Big for an Oyster?

Rachel Tepper Paley
February 20, 2014

Photo credit: Facebook/Vadehavscentret

Size matters when it comes to oysters. As evidence, we present the 14-inch-long oyster recently found off the coast of Denmark, which in December was officially named the world’s biggest oyster by Guinness World Records.

That’s just too big. No one wants to eat a footlong oyster—probably. Everyone has a preference when it comes to the pretty little things, but we went to the pros: 

"At three inches, you have what I would consider the perfect oyster,” expert John Bil told us. When an oyster has grown to that size, it has developed its ideal taste and texture. Bil is a champion shucker who spent about 10 years on Prince Edward Island oyster farms, and has seen bivalves of nearly every shape and size. Of course, exceptions to his rule abound—like smaller-cupped Kumamotos, which usually clock in between two and two-and-a-half inches long.

Oyster preferences have shifted in the last decade, Bil said. In 1990, when he first got into the oyster biz, four-inch-long oysters were the norm. But oyster eating has become more egalitarian; steak and oyster houses that were once the provenance of men, today welcome women—and Bil believes ladies tend to prefer a daintier oyster. “In general, women are more logical,” Bil says. 

Also, demand for oysters is rising overall. Producers can get them to consumers faster if they’re harvested earlier. In some cases, that means pulling immature—and smaller—oysters out of the water.

All of these things have conspired to lower the average size of oysters available to consumers, but there’s not really a single perfect size. It all comes down to personal preference. ”Some people like the sensation” of a larger oyster, Bil said. 

Maybe you’d enjoy a 14-inch-long oyster. Too bad you’re not gonna have a chance. The record-winning bivalve isn’t headed to a raw bar—it will live out its life at Denmark’s Wadden Sea Centre.