Like knowing how to eat a whole lobster or drinking whiskey straight, shucking an oyster is one of those skills that's very handy to have when the moment arises. Stand back, ladies and gentlemen — we're about to shuck us some oysters.
Before you get started, you'll need some fine-quality fresh oysters and an oyster knife. Oyster knives have hefty handles and short little blades. You can find them in just about any kitchen supply store, and they're often sold in markets right next to the seafood counter where you buy the oysters.
As demonstrated by Greg Voisin of Motivatit Seafoods, here are the basic steps for shucking an oyster.
1. Safety first: Wrap the hand that you'll use to hold the oyster in a dishtowel. I'm right-handed, so I'll be holding the oyster in my left hand. Set the oyster on a flat surface and hold it down with your towel-wrapped hand. (Once you get a feel for it, you can try holding the oyster in your hand like Greg instead of setting it on the table. Go slowly and be safe.)
2. Pop the hinge: Looking at the oyster, you should see that it starts at a point and then flares outward into its shell shape. The hinge is located at that original point. Insert your oyster knife next to the hinge, wiggling it around until you feel it slip inside the shell. Give the knife a twist and you should feel the hinge pop.
3. Separate the shells: With the tip of your knife still inside the oyster, run it between the shells toward the top. This might be tricky if you have an especially tenacious oyster. Just keep wiggling and do your best. Also, try to angle the knife toward either the top of the shell or the bottom so that you don't cut into the oyster itself. Once you get to the top, twist the knife again to separate the top and bottom shells.
4. Separate the oyster: Slide your knife under the oyster and cut through the muscles holding it to the shell. Try not to spill too much of the liquid inside the shell because that's some tasty stuff.
5. Slurp and repeat: My preference is to slurp the oyster straight from the shell, perhaps with a dash of hot sauce to liven things up. If you're feeling more civilized, use a fork to scoop up the meat.
This definitely takes some practice. Give yourself a few trial runs before attempting to impress your date or anyone else.
Do you have any tips for first time oyster-shuckers?
(Information for this post was gathered during a press trip to New Orleans sponsored by the Louisiana Seafood Board. All views and opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author.)
(Image: Emma Christensen)