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Shucking Oysters

First, keep in mind that oyster shucking presents certain safety hazards. Be sure to use a double-folded kitchen towel or an old oven glove to protect the hand that is holding the oyster while you're using the knife to open the shell. Special gloves and knives are available on many websites. Clean the shells by scrubbing them with a stiff wire brush under running water.

To open the oyster, insert the knife point into the "hinge" at the back of the shell until a small gap is felt. Then poke around to find the muscle that keeps the shell shut. Twist the blade firmly. Once the muscle is loosened, pry open the two shells by running the knife blade between their edges and gently twisting the blade as it's worked around the seam. Cut the attachment and discard the top shell. Cut the muscle fiber under the oyster that holds it to the shell so the oyster may be picked up with a cocktail fork.

As oysters are removed from their shells, place them in a bowl. If the oyster juices will be used in a sauce or other preparation, rid them of any stray bits of grit by straining them through a fine sieve into another bowl or saucepan. The oysters and juices should be refrigerated immediately and removed just before they're to be eaten or cooked.

Daunting? Many seafood restaurants have a staff member available for a little free-lance work either as an instructor or as your official oyster shucker. Otherwise, arrange to pick up several trays of iced and just opened oysters on the half shell from a restaurant. Of course, seafood markets sell oysters already shucked, by the pint, quart or gallon.

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