When talking about oysters—or any type of shellfish, really—shucking is an important part of the discussion. For those who are new to buying shellfish online, it can be difficult to decide between buying shucked oysters, oysters on the half shell, or live, raw oysters.
Put simply, oyster meat cannot be enjoyed without properly shucked oysters. “Shucking” oysters, clams, and other types of shellfish are when an oyster shell is forcibly opened using an oyster shucking knife to get to the succulent oyster meat within.
The only time you don’t have to shuck an oyster yourself is when you purchase tinned oyster meat or go to an oyster bar and order the oysters Rockefeller—they’ve already been shucked for you!
How do I shuck an oyster?
Whether you’re a first-time shucker preparing an oyster appetizer for your guests or you’re a Chesapeake Bay native on your way to creating the perfect oven fried oysters recipe, it’s important that you know how to shuck an oyster. At Taylor Shellfish Farms, one of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) is from new customers; right after their delivery date, they look at their raw oysters and realize they don’t know how to shuck their oysters.
Using the correct oyster shucking technique is important because if done recklessly, you can accidentally damage the oyster meat inside.
Here’s what you’ll need:
– Fresh oysters — for the first time, we recommend larger oyster types, like Pacific oysters, because it makes it more difficult to cut yourself by accident.
– Oyster shucking knife
– Paring knife
– Something to protect your hands, like an oven mitt or dish towel
How to Make Shucked Oysters
- Clean your oysters (check out our article about how to clean clams and oysters here).
- Put on an oven mitt or wrap your hand in a towel.
- Firmly grip your oyster cup side down. Oysters will be flatter on one side and the other will have a deeper “cup”. This is where the oyster meat is.
- Either in your hand or resting the oyster on a flat surface (this is easier for beginners, but don’t put too much pressure on the oyster), locate the “hinge” of the oyster shell. This is where the shells are joined together rather than just closed by the oyster’s muscles. The hinge will be near the end of the oyster.
- Insert your oyster shucking knife just in front of the hinge, between the bottom shell and the top shell.
- Holding your oyster knife steady, be careful not to dig into the oyster meat within, and push through as far as you can until you can see the point of the oyster knife come out the other side of the shell.
- Firmly twist the shucking knife in place to open the hinge. You will likely hear and feel a small “pop”. Some oyster shells are stronger than others, so keep trying if it’s stubborn!
- Once the hinge has been opened, slide your knife along the length of the shell, be careful to keep the point of the knife visible on the other end, and ensure that the blade is flush with the top shell so you don’t damage the meat.
- Once you have cut along the length of the entire shell, gently twist the shucking knife once again to pry open the shell completely, with the open oysters revealing the meat inside.
And there you have it! Your very own fresh-shucked oysters!
- BONUS STEP: If you don’t plan to eat your oysters “on the half shell” and instead just need the meat, take a sharp paring knife and cut closely along the bottom, carefully lifting the meat from the oyster shell.
Next comes the hardest part—how to prepare them! You can enjoy these oysters on the half shell raw with lemon wedges and mignonette or saute with horseradish cocktail sauce. Or, if you followed the bonus step, why not try a hearty oyster stew or chowder?
Either way, the best oysters are the ones you prepare yourself, so they are sure to be delicious!