Hello and welcome to a new series I’m starting here on the blog! I’m calling it “How to Tuesdays” where I show you some tried and true methods in the kitchen (and maybe outside the kitchen) for how to accomplish various tasks and things! I’m so excited to talk more about the “how” behind cooking and preparing food because sometimes you can have all the ingredients right there and do everything a recipe says but it still doesn’t come out right! And that is so frustrating, I can’t be the only one right?! Anyway, on to today’s topic! How to shuck Oysters!
So, you may be thinking, Oysters!? I hate those things! Their like slimy boogers! Well…you may not be wrong that they look like boogers, but — prepared correctly — they can be super delicious! If you’re still squeamish, I would suggest starting out with a low salinity oyster like a Kumamoto Oyster or Church Points (Puget Sound, WA). They are not super briny and have a sweet flavor. They also tend to be smaller, so easy to eat. You can find out more about oysters and the different salinity levels here!
Also, I know it’s a common misconception that you should only eat oysters during months that have an “R” in them — so basically September through April — but this is a myth! You can eat oysters year round as long as you buy them from a reputable source and they are kept cold and handled properly. Don’t believe me? You can check out this article for more information about this concept.
So! Without further ado, lets get into this how to Tuesday and get to shucking!
Step One: Buy the Right Oysters
In addition to what I’ve said above, the main reason for shucking oysters is to eat them raw. You want very fresh, live, fabulous oysters if that’s your plan. Luckily, oysters are fairly cooperative on that front as long as you keep them cold and don’t suffocate them in plastic. It’s best to buy oysters the day you’re going to shuck them, but that’s mainly a storage issue. There is no reason not to buy them a day or two ahead if that’s more convenient.
Above are a few Gulf Coast oysters, but you can shuck any kind you like or are at your market. Atlantic oysters are a bit trickier to shuck, but only because the shells tend to split.
Along with the oysters, you will also need a short knife or other thin-edged instrument. An actual oyster knife is great, which is nice because it has a guard around the blade to keep your hand from slipping, but a screwdriver (flat head, not Philips!) and even a table knife work as well. You want something with a thin edge that you can work between the shells but that is also strong enough to use to pry open the shells. Most people will also want something with which to hold the oyster (those shells can get sharp). A rag or kitchen towel or oven mitt are all good options, just note that whatever you use will get pretty darn acquainted with oyster shell and oyster juices and may never truly be the same again.
Step 2: Find the Hinge
So, to get into it…literally, look at the oyster. The vast majority of oysters are going to have a cupped side and a flatter side. Hold the oyster with the flatter side up. The cupped side will hold the oyster and its liquid while you shuck.
Now look for the hinge – that point where the shells are joined in a more serious way that just being held together by the muscle that is the oyster. Some people jab the knife in right at the hinge but, it’s often easier to insert the knife between the shells near the hinge.
Note: You may prefer to set the oyster on a flat working surface, hold it steady, and insert the knife. Try both ways and see which way feels easier, safer, or more natural to you.
Having noticed where the hinge is located will now come in handy. Whether you inserted the knife at the hinge or near it, get the knife into the hinge and “pop” it open by twisting the knife blade. Sometimes just twisting the knife after you put it in between the shells will do it, other oysters are more stubborn and you’ll need to work the knife fairly far in to be able to angle the knife (or screwdriver) to be able to get enough leverage to “pop” that hinge.
Note: Keep it as flat as possible to avoid spilling out too much of the oyster liquor inside.
Step 3: Pop it!
Once you’ve popped the hinge open, slide the knife between the shells, keeping it along the bottom of the top shell—you don’t want to mangle the oyster! Most of this sliding will be very easy, but the point where the oyster is attached to the top shell will provide some resistance you’ll need to cut through.
Step 4: Open it up!
You’ve now separated the two shells that house the oyster. Remove the top shell (if there is a lot of meat attached to it, use the knife to cut (or, really, scrape) it off.
If you want to be kind to those who will be eating the oysters, use the shucking knife or a sharp paring knife to cut along the bottom shell to make sure the oyster is free and clear of that shell too.
Through all of this, try to keep as much of the liquid (oyster liquor) in the shell as possible. It’s delicious.
Step 5: Repeat & Eat!
You’ll want to serve oysters as soon after shucking them as possible. You can keep them cold by setting them on a tray of crushed ice.
Serve them plain or with a simple squirt of lemon juice. Many people like Tabasco or cocktail sauce. Or, check out the recipe below for a great mignonette sauce — yum!
I hope you enjoyed this how to Tuesday! Leave a comment below about what else you would like to see in this series — I love to hear your ideas!
See ya next time!
P.S. Shout out to the hubby, Kory, for being a great hand model! 🙂
Mignonette Sauce -- Oysters
- 1/2 cup minced shallots or red onion about 2 1/2 ounces
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar mirin
- 1/8 teaspoon of sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon of salt
- 1 1/4 teaspoon of finely crushed white peppercorns do not use pre-ground or powdered white pepper
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Serve with your favorite oysters!