Raw oysters…you either love them or hate them. This isn’t the type of food that you simply tolerate. If you like oysters you REALLY like them and all their slimy, salty goodness. And if they gross you out, then you probably won’t even try one. And while we recognize that the haters won’t be easily convinced, we can tell you that raw oysters are really good and really good for you. As Livestrong reports, they’re high in protein, low in fat and loaded with minerals like zinc, iron and selenium. And while there’s no scientific proof to date to support this claim, word on the street is the high levels of zinc can make oysters a tasty aphrodisiac. Just saying…you might want to give them a shot.
Anyway, let’s assume you’re a part of the first group (the oyster lovers) and you frequent raw bars and eat a lot of oysters when you are there…if that describes you then we’re about to rock your shellfish world with these expert tips on how to shuck an oyster. After all, knowing how to properly prepare an oyster can change how you serve, eat and enjoy your oysters and it will seriously impress your fiends. And once you know how to properly crack that oyster shell you can serve as many raw oysters as you want wherever you go, no expert oyster chef necessary.
Read Related: Oh, Shuck You: 15 Things to Know About Eating Oysters
Let’s get started. To make shucking an oyster easy to need the right tools. Invest in a good oyster knife, which is “a special dull-pointed, thick-bladed knife that is used to pry the back hinge open and separate the body from the shell.” You can buy oyster knives anywhere, from Bed Bath & Beyond to Amazon. They don’t have to be fancy or expensive to work, and it will be money well spent. You’ll also use a kitchen towel (so have some extras on hand), and you might want to wear a glove, since oyster shells can be jagged, sharp and hard to hold on to.
Next, wash your oysters well. Think about it; you are eating raw shellfish and that shell has been under water in the wild surrounded by who-knows-what for who-knows-how-long. Before you eat whatever is inside that shell, scrub it.
Once you’re ready to go, look at the oyster and assess which side of the shell is curved (that’s the belly) and which side is flat. Then flip the oyster so the belly is on the bottom and the flat side is on top. Nestle the oyster underneath that kitchen towel we talked about, to prevent it from sliding around and so you can get a really good grip. Next, insert that useful oyster knife into the hinge of the oyster shell (the part where the shells meet and taper together) so the shells pop apart slightly. Remember, you aren’t trying to pry the shell open or shove the knife inside. It’s all about finding that magic spot where you can get a little leverage with your knife to gently separate the shells.
Once you do that (and know that it takes a little practice, so don’t get frustrated), rotate the knife until you can separate the top shell from the bottom. As the shells separate, use your knife to disconnect the oyster meat from the top shell by severing the muscle, so that the oyster sits nicely in the bottom shell.
Once you remove the top shell, toss it, it’s no good to you, and then inspect your oyster. Smell it to make sure nothing smells fishy (pun intended). If anything smells off, throw it out; it’s not worth the risk. Look for pieces of broken shell, or any dirt that may have gotten into the oyster as you worked with it. And be careful not to tip the oyster over and spill any of those amazing juices that surrounds the meat—that’s the good stuff and you need it to properly enjoy your oyster.
The last step is to remove the oyster from the bottom shell by severing the muscle in the same way you did before. Gently move the oyster around to make sure it isn’t attached to the shell any more and again, be careful you don’t spill any of the oyster liquor as you work. Once that’s done, you’re ready to dig in! It may seem like a lot of work for one slimy bite of food, but it’s so worth it. And after a little practice it actually gets easier to do and you can work more efficiently. Soon enough you’ll be hosting oyster fests and impressing all your friends with your knife skills and oyster prowess. Happy shucking!