How to Shuck Oysters | Oyster Shucking & Eating Advice
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
Whether you’re heading to your first oyster bar or planning a home oyster bar experience, these tips for how to shuck oysters, plus how to serve and eat oysters, are here to help ensure you achieve top oyster success.
When shucking oysters at home, you naturally want to start with the best-tasting oysters from a reputable seafood seller. The fresher the better, so ask when they were harvested and avoid oysters more than four days old. Look for oysters that are tightly closed and displayed on ice. Another option is to order oysters online from a local oyster farm like Island Creek Oysters. Their oysters come from directly from Duxbury Bay off the Massachusetts coast.
At home, give the oysters a good scrub and store them in a mesh bag in a fridge loosely covered with a damp kitchen towel. Do not place them directly on ice or in water — this will harm or kill them.
HOW TO SHUCK OYSTERS
When it’s time to shuck, scrub oysters well and rinse them with cold water. Wearing an oyster glove or with a thick kitchen towel in the palm of your hand, place an oyster on top, cupped side down. Hold the oyster firmly and keep it flat. Insert an oyster knife into the hinge of the oyster — the U-shaped place at the narrow end where the top and bottom shell meet.
Keeping the knife flat, push it into the oyster (you may have to use a slight rocking motion) until the flat guard of the knife stops. Keep the oyster still and twist the knife until you hear the hinge pop. Remove the top shell by carefully scraping the oyster from it. Be careful to keep the liquid brine in the bottom shell, and try not to cut the oyster meat. Discard the top shell.
Slide the knife under the exposed oyster meat to separate it from the bottom shell, again being careful not to lose the liquid or cut through the meat.
HOW TO EAT OYSTERS
Before I had my first oyster, the thought of eating one was intimidating. I wasn’t even sure how to eat them. There were so many questions. Are oysters alive when you eat them? Are oysters good for you? What do oysters taste like?
The answers? Yes, raw oysters are technically alive (meaning fresh!) when you eat them. Yes, oysters are good for you, with around 6 grams of protein per serving and essential minerals like zinc and iron. And the taste? It’s true what they say. Fresh oysters really do taste “like a mouthful of ocean,” with varying degrees of brine and buttery-ness depending on where they’re from.
After shucking, carefully arrange the oyster shells on ice until ready to eat. A serving tray with a high rim, or even a shallow bucket, works well. Use crushed ice to provide more even, stable support. This will help prevent the oysters tipping and spilling any brine.
Fresh oysters are so delicious that many fans think the best way to eat oysters is to enjoy them plain, or with just the barest squeeze of lemon juice. Raise the shell to your lips, inhale the wonderful briny aroma, and then tip your head back and let the oyster do its thing. Wondering if you should you chew oysters? I think you should. Just a few bites to let the texture and flavor truly shine.
Choose any sauces carefully. Horseradish and cocktail sauce, while popular, are often dismissed by hardworking oyster farmers, because their strong flavors overpower the delicate oyster. In fact, this was the original purpose of cocktail sauce — to mask the taste of bad shellfish. If you like big flavors, opt for a flavorful mignonette recipe instead, like this Spicy Mignonette Recipe recipe from Chef/Owner Jeremy Sewall of Row 34.
And there you have it! Don’t want to eat all of your delicious oysters raw? Try one of our other delicious oyster recipes like Jasper White’s Oyster Stew, Oysters Rockefeller, or crispy Fried Oysters.
Do you have any tips for how to shuck oysters? How to enjoy them? Let us know!
This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated. Special thanks to Island Creek Oysters for supplying the Duxbury Oysters featured in this post.