Whether raw, steamed, grilled or fried, oysters
are a delectable treat any time of day, and have the added benefit of being low in calories and high in minerals and vitamins, making them one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Because of clean oyster farming methods, oysters are also environmentally friendly, so you’re helping the whole world – not just yourself! – whenever you eat them.
That said, eating oysters isn’t always the simplest affair, especially if you’re not used to them. Those new to oyster shucking may feel intimidated by these tightly-shut shells that seem impervious to opening. So, in this guide, we’re going to explain how to perfectly shuck oysters, so you can present them to your guests hassle-free.
Correctly shucking oysters without damaging the flesh or losing the tasty juice inside requires a crucial balance of strength and dexterity, a fine touch with a firm hold, if you will. It also requires the right supplies: namely, a decent oyster shucking knife, and some tough gloves.
Before we get to the actual shucking, though, let’s make sure our oysters are in good condition. Oysters in the shell have to be sold live, so you should always make sure yours haven’t died during transit or since arrival. First off, their shells should be closed tightly. If not, lightly tap them to see if they close by themselves. If they don’t, they’re most likely dead and unsafe for eating. It’s also important that they don’t give off a pungent or fishy aroma; fresh and safe-to-eat oysters should smell of the ocean and little else. Live oysters are also generally heavier than dead ones (which dry out and lose water weight), so it’s worth weighing each oyster in the palm of your hand to see if there are any lightweight ones. Your oysters should also be well-chilled, ideally on ice flakes or ice packs.
Once you’ve established your oysters are alive and well, it’s almost shucking time! But first, be sure to wash them thoroughly in cold water to get rid of any mud, sand, or other impurities from the outer shell (you may wish to use a brush for this). For the actual shucking, you’re going to need an oyster knife, or at the very least a knife with a strong blade that won’t bend or break during shucking. You should also wear thick gloves, since oyster shells can be sharp.
Now it's time to shuck your first oyster! Hold the oyster in the palm of your hand, cup-side down (an oyster’s shell is composed of two sides: one flat, the other cup-shaped). The curved, C-shaped end of the oyster should be facing away from you, while the pointier end should be facing toward you. Insert your knife into this pointier end, pointing the blade down into the cup of the oyster. Using a twisting motion, prize the two shells apart with the knife. Carefully work the blade around the edge of the oyster, continuing to separate the two shells until they come apart completely. During this process, try to ensure no broken pieces of shell fall into the cup. Also, keep the cup steady so no juices spill out.
Now that the oyster is open, check one more time for any stray dirt or grit. You may want to use your knife to separate the oyster flesh from the bottom of the cup, so that whoever’s eating it won’t have to.
Congratulations! You’ve successfully shucked an oyster. Now rinse and repeat for however many oysters you’re preparing to eat. Remember that between shucking and eating, the oysters should be well chilled with ice to ensure they don’t spoil.
Now that you’ve finished shucking the oysters, why not take a look at our guide, How to Cook and Eat Oysters