If you’re eating raw oysters at home, first make sure that they’re alive. Start by checking that each oyster is closed tightly; any that are partially open are dead and should be discarded, says Veggo. The best indicator that an oyster is alive is that it fights back like it doesn’t want to be opened!

Shucking oysters is an art that requires practice. When you do open an oyster, smell it to make sure it’s fresh and edible. But for crying out loud, do not eat the dead ones! Even if you bake them or add lemon juice, you still have a baked, garnished dead oyster. And know your seller—eat raw oysters only if you’re sure they are fresh and alive.

Of course, if you have fresh, live oysters, you can cook them in various ways—grilling or roasting in the shell are popular among Chowhounds. Cooking kills the oysters, making them much easier to shuck. But cooking won’t make a dead, raw oyster safe—or pleasant—to eat.

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