The Right Way to Shuck an Oyster

Illustration of shucking an oyster
Illustration by Joe McKendry

Zoologists believe oysters first appeared more than 200 million years ago. And that the first caveman to eat one did so on a double-dog dare. We’d love to see how they pried one open, because trying to free these gems from their calcified prison can be a real downer if you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s a process that requires a good bit of skill and knowledge on how to lever the shells apart without slicing a finger or stabbing your hand. Luckily, we’ve got the tips to shuck an oyster the right way so you don’t have to venture to an oyster shack to relish in the briny treat.

 

 

“In New York they use a board, but I do it in my hand,” says Robert Daffin, who shucked his first oyster at age eight and has won shucking championships in Alabama, Louisiana, and his native Florida. He has also admittedly put a knife through his palm accidentally. “Try this way,” he says about the tips below.

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The Right Way to Shuck an Oyster

Step One

Put a dishrag on a table and fold it over. Place the oyster on the dishrag cup side down, with the hinge sticking out. Fold the rag over the top of the oyster and grip it.

Step Two

Gently insert the tip of your oyster knife into the rear hinge where top and bottom shells join. Don’t try to shove it, or you’ll break the shell and mangle the oyster (or, like Daffin, earn a free trip to the emergency room).

Step Three

Gently wiggle the knife back and forth until the hinge pops. Don’t get impatient, or the shell (often more brittle with farmed oysters) could crack. Run the blade around the edge, twisting and prying until you feel a pop as the hinge separates.

Step Four

Scrape the blade along the underside of the top shell to cut the connecting muscle; discard top. Then scrape the edge of the knife under the meat to cut the bottom muscle. Now eat!

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