Master the Art of Oyster Shucking with These Expert Tips
Start enjoying oysters at home with these quick and easy oyster shucking tips.
Maybe it's just us, but there's nothing quite like a nice chilled glass of white wine (we'll take a white Bordeaux please), a cool sea breeze and a half-dozen freshly caught oysters. Unfortunately, these decadent bivalves have always been nothing more than the occasional indulgence, because let's be honest, that shell is a force to be reckoned with. Or so it would seem. You might be surprised to hear that all it takes is a little practice, a steady hand and a good old-fashioned oyster knife (yes, that's a thing). We talked to Bobby Palmquist, the chef at Seattle-based oyster bar The Walrus and the Carpenter, to garner some serious oyster shucking tips and trust us when we say they'll have you slurping down a dozen of these bad boys in no time — all in the comfort of your own home. You're welcome.
Fresh Is Best
First things first — you're going to need some oysters. And not just any old oyster — fresh ones. We're talking so fresh you might as well have dug them up yourself, or close enough. Unlike fine wine, seafood doesn't age well, so the fresher it is, the better. "Look for and stay away from oysters that are open at all or have any sort of smell. Other than that just go for it," says Palmquist. "Oysters are grown in different ways and some are definitely 'easier' to open than others. Typically tumbled oysters, kusshi oysters for example, are more rounded and easier for beginners." Noted.
Give 'Em a Rinse
Before you get shucking, give those oysters a good cold water rinse to get rid of any sand or grit and then put them on ice. "I would place them in a bowl, cover with a wet towel, place some ice on top and get them in the fridge until you are ready to shuck them," says Palmquist. "Then the only things you need are a good oyster knife and a towel." Don't have one of these kitchen trinkets on hand? Grab one here or here.
Shuck It Off
Once you're ready to throw down a few of these mouth-watering mollusks, pull them out of the fridge and have your knife and towel handy. "Oysters have an adductor muscle in the upper right portion that holds the meat to the top and bottom shell. There is a hinge at the back of the oyster and this is where we are going to start," says Palmquist.
- Place the towel on the counter and hold the oyster down in the towel with the hinge sticking out.
- Insert the tip of the oyster knife into the hinge until it is stuck inside. Twist the knife until the top shell “pops" open.
- Slide the knife along the inside of the top shell toward the adductor muscle and cut it off. The top shell will lift off.
Snip, Slurp and Pat Yourself on the Back
You've made it through the "hard" part and now there's just one quick step left. Remember that adductor muscle we mentioned? You're going to give it another snip, this time on the bottom, which will free the oyster from the shell, making it ready to eat. "Lift the mantle of the oyster – it kind of looks like lips — and slide the knife underneath the meat. With the tip cut through the muscle. And that's that," says Palmquist. "It shouldn't be hacked to bits or anything because you are not cutting the meat itself, just the muscle that holds it shut." Wondering what to do with all that liquid inside the shell? Palmquist recommends keeping it. "It's delicious and a big part of how the oyster tastes," he says.
By this point you've probably worked up quite an appetite (humor us), so it's time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. "I'm a big fan of just a squeeze of fresh lemon. Slurp and go," says Palmquist. "Give it a little chew to taste it, then swallow."
Not so bad wasn't? And since practice makes perfect, you now have a great excuse to eat oysters on the regular.