If you, like many of us, enjoy a fresh oyster off the shell but have yet to open one up yourself, you may be wondering how to shuck (the fancy term for opening oysters). To be honest it’s very simple and quite quick. With minimal practice you’ll be opening and enjoying your own fresh oysters in no time!
How to Open an Oyster
What you’ll Need
A good quality oyster knife (you can get this at any store that sells cutlery, and quite inexpensively)
A hand towel or oven mitt (for your safety and piece of mind)
An even countertop or table (I strongly advise against freehand “up-in-the-air” techniques.)
I suggest doing it in the kitchen so you can utilise the water from your tap to clean the oyster before and after opening
Step 1 – Clean the Oyster
Pop the oyster under the tap and run some water over it while rubbing to loosen and release the dirt attached to the outside of the shell. If you have a fitting brush you can use that instead of your bare hands. Make sure the outside is thoroughly cleaned before the next step.
Step 2 – Enter through the Hinge
Place the oyster on the table or countertop facing out evenly. Pin it down with your towel or oven mitt. This is more for comfort and protection if you make a mistake with the knife, but don’t stress, oyster knives are purposefully dull.
Enter into the hinge with the knife blade. Make sure it’s about 2 cm in to the shell. Gently pull your way around the lip of the shell with the knife, meeting on the other side of the hinge.
Step 3 – Open the lid
With the shell seal broken, carefully pry the lid open using either your fingers or the knife. Keep the oyster flat and even on the counter or table while doing this. Pull the oyster open until both sides of the shell are flat on the table or counter and you can see the inside.
Step 4 – Cut the top adductor muscle
Using the oyster knife, sever the adductor muscle attached to the top side of the oyster. It should take little more than a flick of the wrist
Step 5 – Cut the bottom adductor muscle
Now cut the same muscle attached to the bottom of the shell. Ensure you keep the shell level while doing so.
Use a damp cloth or your fingers to gently rub away any dirt present on the inside of the shell so that the oyster is clean. Avoid using water when doing this or you will dull the taste of the oyster significantly.
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Step 6 – Loosen the oyster
Run the knife under the oyster meat along the bottom of the shell to loosen the oyster itself so it is no longer attached to anything. Again, keep the shell level whilst doing so.
If you have followed these steps you should be done! Now simply eat or serve the oyster as you please.
There are a few other methods such as entering through the side or front instead of through the hinge and these are equally efficient but take more practice to do effortlessly. So if you are doing it for the first time the hinge is your best bet!
How to Open an Oyster without an Oyster Knife
You may be wondering how to open an oyster without an oyster knife because you find yourself without a shucker. There are actually a variety of ways you can do this! An oyster knife is not expensive or hard to find but you may be in a hurry, have lost your knife, or don’t plan on making this a habit. If that’s the case here’s a couple of things you can do.
If you intend on using the oyster to cook with and don’t mind them getting warm, popping them in the microwave for a few minutes will pop them right open without any trouble or effort for you. I strongly suggest you only do this if you are cooking with them do not require them to be cold and fresh. Eating them as-is after they’ve been in the microwave is quite simply a crime! Not to mention they will not taste great at all.
Yes, I know it sounds like a crude solution but it’s actually better way to open an oyster than with a normal kitchen knife if you don’t have an oyster knife. A normal kitchen knife could hurt you quite badly if it slips, and slipping is common when opening your first few oysters. When using a screwdriver simply follow the same steps from above as you would with a shucker.
As you can see, opening an oyster takes little more than common sense, the right tool, and a little bit of practice to perfect it. And once you have, you can be lining em’ up in record time, ready to serve to expectant guests or indulge in yourself. What are you waiting for? Go get em’!