How to Shuck an Oyster
When my parents were in town last month, we had to stop by our favorite grocery spot, Chelsea Market. We headed over to The Lobster Place, because I was making tequila marinated shrimp and fish tacos. My dad, however, stopped in his tracks when we walked past the vast display of oysters.
At first, I was reluctant, because I had never opened an oyster before, and I thought it would be too difficult (not to mention dangerous, what with taking a knife to a closed shell and all), but he persisted, and eventually I gave in and he bought two dozen oysters and an oyster knife. I was honestly terrified that someone was going to lose a thumb in my apartment, but I allowed Kramer and my dad to get to cracking open some oysters. Believe it or not, it wasn't so hard after all! Kramer shucked all of the oysters quickly and cleanly, and we were enjoying fresh oysters in my kitchen in no time at all. Sometimes you just have to face your culinary fears, I suppose. Thanks, Dad, for convincing us (and for buying)!
We bought two different types of oysters that we got at Chelsea Market. The first were Blue Point oysters, which are from Long Island and have a nice, prevalent brininess. They generally have lots of liquid in them, too, which makes for a delicious oyster, in my opinion, because they taste just like fresh seawater. The ones pictured here are the Hama Hama oysters, which are from Washington State. They are a firm, meaty oyster, with a more mild brininess. I liked the Blue Points the best, but the Hama Hamas were really pretty, and also bigger, so you get a little more bang for your buck. There are many different varieties of oysters, though, so get a couple of different kinds and have fun with them!
The best part about having oysters at home is that they are a great way to gather everyone around the table, try out different toppings, sip on some cocktails, and enjoy one another's company. We had horseradish and cocktail sauce, of course, along with lemon wedges, but my favorite topping of all has to be a tiny dropper sized amount of Henrick's gin. The gin compliments the briny oysters unlike anything you've ever tried, I promise you! My dad came up with the genius idea of using a straw to pull just the right amount of gin out from the bottle and onto the oysters. Summer is officially here, and I can't think of a better way to kick it off than by gathering up your courage and shucking some oysters!
All you need to get your oyster party started: oysters, horseradish, and cocktail sauce. I like a little lemon juice on mine, too.
As well as just a little drop of good gin (preferably Hendrick's). Trust me on this!
Now, it's time to pop open those oysters! Get two thick towels - one for your counter, and one for your hands. You will also need an oyster knife, which you can get in the seafood section of your grocery store, or at any restaurant supply store.
Wrap the towel around the oyster and get a firm hold of it. You can rinse your oysters before hand, but I prefer not to because I want as much delicious brininess as possible. Hold the oyster with the pointy end sticking out.
Get the knife in there— you will only need to use the very tip of it, and begin to slide the knife around the lip of the oyster to the other side. Try to keep it level so that you don't lose any of the juices inside, while still keeping the tip pointed slightly up.
Now you should be able to just pry the oyster open with the help of your knife and your fingers.
Gently cut away any muscle that is connecting the two pieces of shell together before opening the oyster all the way.
Now, you want to loosen the oyster a bit so that you can easily get at the meat. Carefully cut the oyster itself away from the muscle underneath it, while still keeping the oyster level so as to not lose any liquid.
Ta-da! Your oyster is ready to be enjoyed.
Serve your oysters with some lemon wedges, horseradish, cocktail or mignonette sauce, and/or, if you're like me, a tiny drop of gin.
How to Shuck an Oyster
A printable recipe may be found at The Crepes of Wrath
Total Prep Time: It took Kramer about 20 minutes to open 24 oysters, and it was his first attempt - it's easier than it seems!
oysters (depends on how many you have, obviously - we opened 24)
crushed ice (to serve the oysters on top of and keep them cool)
1. First of all, you MUST have an oyster knife for this. If you do not have an oyster knife, don't try to open the oysters. A regular knife does not have a strong enough tip to open an oyster, so you will ruin your knife if you try to use it, or you can cut yourself. Go buy an oyster knife. They are under $5 and can be found wherever you buy your oysters.
2. Wrap the towel around the oyster and get a firm hold of it. You can rinse your oysters before hand, but I prefer not to because I want as much delicious brininess as possible. Hold the oyster with the pointy end sticking out.
3. Get the knife in there - you will only need to use the very tip of it, about 1/4 to 1/2 an inch, and begin to slide the knife around the lip of the oyster to the other side. Try to keep it level so that you don't lose any of the juices inside, while still keeping the tip pointed slightly up. Wiggle the knife a bit, then pry the oyster open with your fingers, trying to keep it as level as possible so you don't lose the liquid inside (AKA the best part).
4. Disconnect the muscle from the top of the oyster before you pop it all the way open, then disconnect the muscle underneath the oyster meat before serving, so they are easier to eat. Be careful that you don't lose any liquid!
5. Serve on a bed of crushed ice with the lemon wedges, horseradish, cocktail or mignonnette sauce, and/or gin. There are a number of fun drinks to serve with your oysters; a cold glass of white wine, champagne, or prosecco or a gin martini are my favorites.