Last updated on June 6th, 2023
Fried oyster po’ boys are made with fresh oysters rolled in flour and cornmeal, deep fried and layered on French bread with remoulade sauce, lettuce and sliced tomato.
Po’ Boys are a signature sandwich in the South. They come in several variations, from roast beef smothered with gravy or stuffed with fried or grilled seafood. If you’re an oyster lover, you will adore frying up a few plump, briny oysters and layering them in a piece of soft French bread. The hardest decision – do you want your oyster po’ boys dressed?
Why is it called a po’ boy?
Brothers Clovis and Benjamin Martin are credited with creating the first po’ boy sandwich. The brothers both had careers as streetcar drivers before opening their own restaurant in New Orleans in the 1920’s. In 1929, a four-month strike ensued between the city streetcar workers and the company that employed them.
Naturally, the Martin brothers sympathized with the striking workers and vowed to feed the unemployed workers for free for the duration. They developed an inexpensive sandwich made of long loaves of French Bread and roast beef and gave away the sandwiches out the back door of the restaurant. Hungry workers would yell into the kitchen, “Here comes another poor boy!” Eventually, the name was shortened to po’ boy and became synonymous with the sandwich.
While roast beef po’ boys smothered in gravy remain the original incarnation of this beloved sandwich, it has been adapted to include shrimp, oysters or catfish.
Gathering Your Ingredients
Once I got this brilliant idea I was going to make New England clam chowder with fresh clams? After that experience, I came to the conclusion that I never want to shuck another bivalve again.
I have had good experience with Kellum Brand fresh oysters (not an affiliate link) sold in the seafood section of my local Kroger. The oysters are plump, still in their brine and always smell fresh. If the seafood department of your grocery store does not sell canned fresh oysters, look for canned oysters in the same aisle as the canned tuna. Keep in mind, these oysters are precooked, so they may end up a tad overcooked than if starting with fresh oysters.
You will need one pound (16 ounces) of sucked oysters for this recipe. I recommend waiting to purchase the oysters within a day or two of then you plan to eat them. Store them in the coolest part of your refrigerator — bottom shelf, towards the back – until you’re ready to use them.
Other ingredients include all-purpose flour, plain yellow cornmeal (not self-rising cornmeal), one large egg, oil for frying (such as vegetable or canola oil) and salt and pepper. Traditional po’ boy sandwiches are served on New Orleans style French bread. It’s a little softer and easier to bite into than a French Baguette. However, if you can’t find New Orleans style French bread, hoagie rolls will work.
Coating the Oysters
The secret to achieving a crispy, golden cornmeal crust is to double batter the oyster. The easiest way to do this is to create an assembly line. Start by combining one cup of flour with the salt and pepper in a shallow bowl. I find a pie plate or 8 x 8-inch casserole dish works well. In another shallow dish, gently beat one large egg. Place it next to the bowl with the flour. Finally pour one cup of yellow cornmeal into a third dish and set it on the other side of the dish with the egg.
Drain off any excess liquid from the oysters. Working in batches, roll the oysters in the flour first. Once they are coated with the flour, transfer them to the egg and completely coat them with the egg. Finally, move them to the dish with the cornmeal and roll them around until they are completely coated with the cornmeal.
Frying the Oysters
Fill the bottom of a frying pan with approximately two inches of cooking oil. You need enough room for the oysters to float around freely in the pan. I find cast iron skillets are excellent for frying because they heat quickly and evenly. Heat the oil to 350 degrees F. A candy/deep fry thermometer is an excellent tool to ensure your oil is the right temperature and stays the consistent temperature throughout cooking.
Once the oil has reached the optimum temperature, carefully add a few oysters at a time to the hot oil. Adding to many will crowd the skillet and cause the temperature of the oil to drop. The oysters do not need much time at all too cook. About 45 seconds on each side, a minute and a half total.
Immediately remove the oysters from the hot oil with a slotted spoon and place them on several sheets of paper towels, newspaper or paper sacks to drain.
Do you want it dressed?
If you order a po’ boy sandwich from a restaurant, you may get asked if you want it dressed. Do you want your sandwich served with lettuce, sliced tomato and rémoulade sauce? The answer is yes.
Rémoulade (pronounced rem-you-lod) is a popular mayonnaise-based condiment that also contains ketchup, hot sauce, and/or paprika and prepared horseradish sauce. Down here you can find rémoulade on the condiment aisle of the grocery store. But I find the prepared bottles of rémoulade to be a little too heavy on the horseradish for my taste. Therefore, I prefer to make my own.
To assemble the sandwich, nestle several fried oysters into the bottom of a split bun. Drizzle a little (or a lot) of rémoulade sauce over the top of the oysters. Top with shredded iceburg lettuce and a few slices of tomato.
How to Store Cooked Fried Oysters
This recipe serves four, but when I originally made it, it was just The Husband and myself eating. Naturally, we had a few fried oysters leftover. Rather than throwing them out, I saved them for lunch the next day.
Layer the fried oysters in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Place a layer of paper towels between each layer to absorbs any excess grease. Cover the container and store in the refrigerator. The oysters should be eaten with three to four days.
To reheat, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Layer the oysters in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 5-10 minutes. I found this perfectly heated the oyster through and maintained the crispy cornmeal crust without overcooking the oyster.
To freeze, layer the fried oysters in a freezer-safe container with a tight-fitting lid or a plastic freezer bag. Place paper towels or waxed paper between the layers. If using a bag, squeeze out any excess air before closing. Eat within a month or two for best flavor.
Do not thaw before reheating. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Layer the frozen oysters in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes until they star to sizzle and are heated through.
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Fried Oyster Po’ Boys
- 1 pound shucked oysters drained
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten
- 1 cup plain yellow cornmeal (not self-rising)
- Oil for frying
- Split French bread or hoagie rolls
- Shredded lettuce
- Sliced tomato
- Remoulade sauce see note
- Pour 2-3 inches of oil into the bottom of a cast iron or deep sided skillet. Heat the oil to 350 degrees F over medium heat.
- While the oil is heating, combine the flour, salt and pepper in a shallow dish.
- Crack the egg into a second shallow dish and beat lightly.
- Place the yellow cornmeal in a third dish.
- Add a few raw oysters at a time to the flour. If there are any really large oysters, cut them in half before adding them to the flour. Roll the oysters in the flour until they are completely coated.
- Transfer the oysters covered in flour to the egg. Coat the oysters with the egg, then move them to the dish with the cornmeal.
- Roll the oysters in the cornmeal until they are thoroughly coated.
- Working in batches, fry the oysters in the hot oil for 45 seconds, then flip and fry for an additional 45 seconds. Total cooking time is about 1 ½ mintues.
- Remove the fried oysters from the oil using a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels or a couple layers of newspaper or paper sacks.
- To assemble the sandwich, nestle 4-5 oysters on the bottom of a 6-inch piece of French bread split in half or a hoagie roll. Drizzle with rémoulade sauce. Top with shredded lettuce and sliced tomato.