Adventures in Oyster Shucking

Finally got my nerve up this weekend, and shucked my first dozen oysters – Malpeques! Malpeques are cultivated in the pristine glacial depths of Malpeque Bay in Prince Edward Island, Canada. They are good sized oysters, still light-bodied and very clean on finish; an excellent balance of ocean brininess and sweetness. Malpeques are harvested by tongs from a dory, not dredged. They can’t even be hand-picked.

How to Shuck an Oyster

I found a great Curtis Stone video on oyster shucking, and headed out to pick up an oyster knife and the oysters. Oyster knives have a short, thick blade to withstand the pressure from prying open the shell. They’re not as sharp as a typical kitchen knife, but very good for cutting the muscle of the oyster. You can also use a heavy paring knife.

Oysters will keep in the fridge for a couple days, I prefer to use them the day I bring them home. If you need to keep them, put them in an uncovered bowl on top of damp paper towels so they can breathe. They should smell like the ocean, and their shells should be completely closed. Discard any that are open. Scrub the oysters under cold water to remove any loose shell or grit that is on them.

Prepare a serving plate with crushed ice. This will help keep the oysters good and cold while you are shucking, and makes a really nice presentation.

To shuck an oyster, start with the pointy end, or hinge, instead of the rounded end of the shell. Place a folded up heavy dishtowel over the oyster to protect your other hand; you can also invest in oyster shucking gloves. Hold the oyster with the flat side up, work the tip of the knife into the hinge and start to pry the oyster open until you feel the shells separate or hear the pop.


Oysters have a muscle that holds the top and bottom shell together, you will need to sever both sides. If you have any shell fragments on the knife, wipe it off. Slide the knife down the side of the top shell to sever the muscle, and then pry the top shell off. Slide the knife under the oyster in the rounded bottom shell, sever the other side of the muscle, and flip the oyster over making sure not to spill any of the liquor. Remove any shell fragments or grit in the oyster, and nestle the shell into the ice. You’ve shucked your first oyster!

When you’ve finished shucking, garnish your plate with lemon quarters, hot sauce if you like and a mignonette. I picked up a Bourbon Smoky Black Pepper Mignonette at Clean Catch, but here are several to try:

Happy slurping!


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