If you’re a new shucker it may seem like oysters are impossible to open. With practice, it gets easier, but oysters are hard to open for good reason.
The oyster’s shell is its only protection from hungry birds, otters, fish, and of course, oyster-loving people. As a result, they’ve evolved to protect themselves as best they can from being opened. Their anatomy is designed to keep their shell closed.
The oyster shell itself is made up of hard calcium carbonate, protecting the oyster inside from anything that may try to get in. The shells operate on a hinge and fit together very tightly, making it hard to find a spot to slip an oyster knife in to pry them open.
As well, oysters have a powerful muscle, called the adductor muscle that works to open their shell when they’re feeding or snap it shut when they’re threatened. This muscle is seriously strong and meant to resist prying predators trying to get in.
Luckily for us, with the mechanical advantage of a good oyster knife, we can open the oyster and enjoy the delicacy.
How to Shuck an Oyster
Before you get started on your shucking journey, it’s important to have the proper tools.
Shucking Knife- having a good shucking knife is the most critical part of shucking oysters like a pro. You need a shucking knife with a strong point and a comfortable handle that allows you to grip the knife without shipping. We love these custom shuckers from Join or Die Knives because they’re durable and fit our hands perfectly.
Shucking Gloves- while not absolutely necessary, shucking gloves can be really helpful for a beginner. First, they’ll protect your hand from an accidental poke if you happen to slip and secondly, they’ll allow you to get a really firm grip on the oyster. Our shucking gloves are palm-dipped to help keep your hands dry and slip-free when shucking.
Once you’re all geared up and ready to go, follow these steps to help make shucking oysters a breeze
Step 1: Start by familiarizing yourself with the oyster to learn when your knife point should go and how to best hold the oyster. We recommend holding the oyster cup down with the hinge pointing toward you.
Step 2: Wrap the oyster in a towel or rag, or hold it in a gloved hand if you using a shucking glove.
Step 3: Work the point of your shucking knife into the hinge of the oyster slowly using a side-to-side motion as needed. Once the tip of the knife is about ¼” into the oyster, it should begin to ‘pop’ open.
Step 4: Once the oyster has popped, turn your shucking knife to run parallel to the length of the shell. Run the knife down the rest of the oyster to open the shell and cut the oyster free from it.
Step 5: Once the shell is fully open, use the oyster knife as needed to detach the oyster from the shell. Be careful not to spill any of the tasty liquor!