Food & Drink

The Ordinary’s Smoked Oysters

Get the recipe for one of Charleston’s favorite bites

Photo: Michael Pronzato

If there is one dish without which New Charleston Cuisine would be incomplete, it’s The Ordinary’s smoked oysters, which play an outsized role in so many visitors’ dining memories of Charleston. Praised repeatedly in the national press, the dish arose from chef Mike Lata’s attempt to recapture a California campfire experience. “Success finally came when we ditched the pre-shucked jug oysters from Virginia, instead using the premium oysters that we serve on the half shell at the restaurant,” Lata says. “I find that one of the remarkable things about this dish is the texture of the finished oyster.”


    • 12 saltine crackers

    • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

    • ¼ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

    • ½ cup crème fraîche

    • ¼ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

    • 1 dozen fresh oysters

    • 2 to 3 cups rock salt

    • 1 cup hickory chips, soaked in cold water

    • 1 tablespoon finely chopped heart of celery, leaves included

    • 2 teaspoons minced shallots

    • 1 teaspoon finely chopped chives

    • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

    • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

    • Hot sauce, for serving


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the saltine crackers on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush both sides with melted butter and bake until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with Old Bay seasoning. Let cool.

  2. Whisk together crème fraîche and lemon zest and refrigerate. Prepare a charcoal grill. While the grill heats, partially shuck the oysters, removing the top shell but leaving the oyster attached to the bottom shell. Fill a pie tin with an even layer of rock salt (make sure it’s a pie tin that you don’t mind getting dirty) and nestle the oysters into the rock salt so they are level.

  3. When the coals are smoldering, push to one side of the grill then scatter the soaked wood chips over the top. Replace the grill grate and set the pie tin on the side of the grill, away from the coals. Cover and smoke at 150 degrees for 15 minutes, until the oysters plump and the edges start to curl. When cool enough to handle, shuck oysters completely into a bowl. Gently fold in celery, shallots, chives, lemon juice, and olive oil. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight. Serve with saltines, crème fraîche, and hot sauce.

Excerpted from New Charleston Cuisine: 50 Defining Dishes from the Holy City’s Top Kitchens, by Hanna Raskin. Recipe by Mike Lata of The Ordinary.