Despite what you have heard, oysters are always in season. In the summer months, you can crack ’em on the half shell and hit a dash of hot sauce, or even toss them on the grill to steam while beachside to compliment the sunset. Every oyster aficionado has their own way of preparing the mollusks, but it all starts with the art of the shuck, without the proper technique, there is no oyster to prepare. It is a moment of food zen, and if you can develop a rhythm, you will own the skill. Allow us to break down (or break-in) the art of shucking so you can get to slurpin’ and sippin’, because nothing goes better with an oyster than an ice-cold bottleneck.
STEP 1: GEAR UP
To get started you need a solid shucking knife. This should be in any toolbox or roped onto the cooler for easy access. Grab the Narragansett Oyster Shucker from R Murphy Knives as they offer a comfortable grip and sturdy blade. You’ll also need a towel cloth like this one here. The cloth offers protection to your hand and serves as a swipe clean to the blade when you’re working through the shells. The last piece of gear for your oyster arsenal, the glove. Probably the most overlooked item to shucking efficiency, it’s not to protect from the blade but more so the shells, cop this one to toss in the kit.
STEP 2: UNDERSTAND THE OYSTER
Say and know this word, Umbo. We like the sound of it, but if you don’t, it’s also known as the hinge. This is where the shell comes together at the back of any oyster. The rest of the oyster has two distinguishable sides: the cup, and the flat top that both come together with a rounded end (the one you slurp from). Inside the shell is the pesky adductor muscle, if the hinge towards you, and the cup side is down, the adductor will be on the right side.
STEP 3: ACTION
Wrap the oyster in the cloth hinge out and hold with your non-dominant gloved hand.
Insert your blade into the hinge by slightly twisting back and forth at a slight angle until it is stuck ( about a quarter-inch inside) don’t force anything. Once you feel you have the leverage pop the shell and turn the knife side to side clock and counterclockwise ( like a car key) to further open separating the flat and cupped side.
Remove your knife and give it a quick clean.
Reinsert the shucking knife along the inside of the flat top (upper shell) and you’ll feel the scrape of the abductor off the top shell.
Transfer that bad boy to some crushed ice, on top of some kosher salt, or any other safe chilled spot while you work the rest of the magic.
STEP 4: SLURP
There are so many variations on how to consume a beloved oyster, with a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of balsamic, on a cracker with Louisiana hot sauce, or with a meticulously prepared mignonette. This part is completely up to you while you kick back and slurp back, arguing which oysters rule the ranks, Pacific, Gulf, or Atlantic, but we all know the answer to that—we’ll let you figure that part out.
Be wise, don’t forget you’re operating a blade. Use the towel as a guard if the knife slips
In Kitchen Confidential, Bourdain recounts that it was the memory of an oyster that may have started his food fascination
If you flip your oyster after it’s been shucked, it’s called the Philly flip—don’t get cocky though
Finding some difficulty getting the rhythm? Step away for a moment to recollect then jump back in with a clear mind