The City Magazine Since 1975

How to Shuck Oysters Like a Pro

February 2016
How to Shuck Oysters Like a Pro
PHOTOGRAPHER: 
If you grew up here, shucking oysters probably comes as second nature. But if you’re “from off,” just know this: oyster fêtes are bushels of fun—until someone ends up with a bloody palm. We asked executive chef Shane Whiddon of Charleston Harbor Resort in Mount Pleasant to share his tips for shucking

There are two camps of shuckers: Those who use the “lip” method, and those who prefer the “hinge” method, which is more commonly practiced by professionals.

❶ “Lip” shucking: Working on a flat surface, place an oyster cupped-side down on a towel that you fold (as shown in the photo) to protect your hand. Insert the tip of an oyster knife into a groove at the oyster’s front or side where the top and bottom shells meet. (Finding an insertion point sometimes requires chipping the shell—not ideal for presentational purposes.) Wiggle your knife slightly to make sure it’s in as far as it will go, then pry the top shell—like opening a bottle—until it pops ajar. Run the knife inside along the top to slice through the adductor muscle and remove the top shell. Use the knife to release the oyster from the bottom shell, careful not to lose any of the liquor in the process. Eat or serve immediately.

➋ “Hinge” shucking: Working on a flat surface, place an oyster cupped-side down on a towel and fold the cloth over the oyster’s front to protect your hand. Insert the tip of an oyster knife into the oyster’s “hinge” on its backside. Wiggle the knife slightly to make sure it’s in as far as possible, then twist the knife away from you until the top shell pops open. Run the knife inside along the top to slice through the oyster’s adductor muscle and remove the top shell. Use the knife to release the oyster from the bottom shell, careful not to lose any of the liquor in the process. Eat or serve immediately.
 

Rules to shuck by:

➤ Always use a proper oyster knife. (Paring knives pose a much higher risk of injury.) Shopping locally? Whiddon recommends Middleton Made oyster knives. At-home chefs can also purchase mesh or cut-proof protective gloves for extra safety.

➤ Check for freshness. If an opened oyster smells funky, or if it’s shriveled up and dry, toss it. A healthy oyster should be plump and full of liquor—and it shouldn’t have bacteria-laden pluff mud near its hinge. A rotten oyster can always be hiding in a barrel of gems—finding one “doesn’t mean you have to throw out the whole batch,” says Whiddon. Your best bet? Shuck and slurp on a case-by-case basis.

Resources: