Two and a half years ago, I made a promise to you to write about how to shuck an oyster. I am finally making good on that promise.
Oysters are magnificent, magical, wonderful things – kind of like drugs but with no deleterious side effects or risk of physical addiction. I am not one to attribute mind-altering qualities to food, but oysters are an exception. Oysters transcend food. I am a full believer in the magical powers of these briny little mollusks.
Aside from their potent euphoria-inducing qualities, they’re sustainable as all get out, filtering the water of the bays they inhabit and enriching sea beds with their shells after consumption. And they’re good for you too. They are, in short, an ideal thing to consume.
Shucking, once you get the hang of it, is so much fun. There’s a satisfaction in having done a little work for your bivalve reward.
A fresh oyster should taste clean and briny, like the best smelling ocean ever, with no trace of rotting marine life.
HOW TO SHUCK AN OYSTER
You will need:
An oyster knife
A kitchen towel
A tray of ice
Various condiments: mignonette (link below), hot sauce, lemon wedges, horseradish
The most important thing to remember is to not use much force. You may think that you have to jam that oyster knife in that shell with all of your might, but you don’t. Gentle persistence is key, not only to successfully opening the shell, but to avoiding injury.
Have the flatter side of the oyster facing up, and the cupped side facing down. Rest the oyster on a stable surface, cover half with a cloth, and stabilize with one hand.
1. Find the hinge of the oyster: this is the narrower, pointier end of the oyster. Gently ease the tip of the oyster knife into the hinge. Sometimes bits of the shell will flake off, and sometimes you will need to flake off a little of the shell to get in there. It flakes off pretty easily. Don’t worry about that, but try not to let any get inside the shell.
2. This is the most important moment: to get in there, gently twist the oyster knife back and forth, as if you were turning a screwdriver back and forth in your hand. You can be firm, but don’t force anything.
Keep twisting the knife back and forth in a semi-circular motion. Don’t angle it up and down like a lever. Imagine a circle. Or, imagine you are turning a key in an ignition. You will feel the shell start to release a little. Keep at it, gently, until the you can get the knife all the way in there.
4. Carefully holding the oyster so as not to lose any of the precious liquor (that delicious juice inside the shell), slide the knife under the body of the oyster to remove it from the bottom shell and ease its path into your mouth.
5. Dress the oyster with any of these: mignonette (I love my friend Anna’s simple recipe), lemon juice, hot sauce, or horseradish. I’m on a hot sauce and lemon juice kick right now. It just needs a little acid to boost its gentle briny flavors.
Open your maw, slide the oyster in, chew a few times, swallow. And repeat.