There’s no day like National Oyster Day (August 5) to learn how to shuck an oyster.
Oysters can be challenging, not only in terms of taste and texture, but in the effort it takes to open them up for consumption. The tightly clamped shells must be pried apart, ideally without stabbing yourself in the hand. And there’s a bit of finesse involved, not just brute force, but with the right tools and simple technique, it’s easy to get the hang of it. So, read on to learn how to shuck an oyster like a pro.
Tools You Need to Shuck an Oyster:
OXO Good Grips Oyster Knife with Non-Slip Handle, $9.99 from Amazon
A sturdy oyster knife is an absolute must, of course.
Dowellife Cut Resistant Gloves, $8.99 from Amazon
While a clean kitchen towel will do for gripping the oyster, some people like the extra protection of blade-resistant gloves.
How to Shuck an Oyster:
1. Fold a clean kitchen towel or tea towel to use as a protective mitt (or don a cut-resistant glove). Hold the oyster—flat side up so that when you open it, the deeper, cupped shell will catch the precious oyster liquor—in your towel- or glove-protected, non-dominant hand. Rest this hand on a steady, flat surface for extra insurance against slips.
2. With your dominant hand, hold the oyster knife firmly by the handle and wedge the point of the knife blade into the hinge that connects the shells. Don’t try to use a regular knife, as the blade will be too thin and not ideally shaped.
3. Press down and turn the knife as you would a doorknob, exerting minimal forward pressure. As you turn the knife, there will be a slight, satisfying “pop” as the joint gives way.
4. Take out the knife and wipe it free of sediment. Then slide it back in between the shells and cut the muscle that holds them together.
5. Remove the top shell, and carefully run the knife under the oyster meat in the bottom shell to release it.
Zyliss Oyster Tool, $15.95 from Sur La Table
Another oyster shucking option, this silicone sleeve securely holds your bivalves, and the accompanying knife slides easily between the shells while offering an ergonomic grip.
Now you’re ready to enjoy your oyster as-is, or add a few extras—from a simple squirt of lemon juice and a dash of hot sauce to slightly more complicated options:
Mignonette is a classic French sauce of vinegar, shallots, and pepper that often accompanies raw oysters. You can riff on the basic flavors; for a clean, cooling version with double the oceanic appeal, try our Oysters with Caviar and Cucumber Mignonette recipe. Or accent it with another classically romantic ingredient: Champagne (or Prosecco, its close cousin). Get our Oysters with Prosecco Mignonette recipe.
For fancier types who like to pair their oysters with alcohol, you can try our Oyster Martini recipe, but this classic spicy, salty shot is a great way to enjoy oysters (or pretend you like them when you really just want to bolt them down as fast as possible). Get our Oyster Shooter recipe.
If you prefer your oysters cooked, à la oysters Rockefeller, these creamy, crisp-on-top baked oysters are a delicious choice, and look great served in their shells on a bed of coarsely crushed salt to mimic the bed of crushed ice beneath raw oysters on the half shell. Get our Baked Oysters Chowder recipe.
12 Live Atlantic Blue Point Wild Oysters, $27.50 from Fulton Fish Market
Perfect raw or cooked.
Header image courtesy of Jamie Grill/Getty Images.