Equipment Needed for Shucking Oysters:
- A stiff bristle brush
- Heavy protective glove
- A clean bar towel
- A good-quality oyster knife (one with a sturdy blade that won’t bend easily). Never use a paring knife; you will definitely cut yourself.
Shucking will seem difficult at first, but with a little practice, you will find that you can easily shuck your oysters.
1. Prior to opening, be sure the oysters are alive by again checking that the shells are closed tightly. Scrub oyster shells well with a stiff bristle brush and rinse thoroughly under cool running water.
The oyster has a back, where the hinge or pointed end is; a front, the rounded end; a top, the flatter shell; and a bottom, the more cupped shell.
Using heavy gloves, hold the oyster firmly in one hand, oyster knife in the other. Position the oyster so the cup side is down (the curved side faces into your hand, and the flatter side faces up). Keep oyster as level as possible to save oyster juices.
2. Slip the tip of knife blade between the top and bottom shell right by the hinge. As it is necessary to exert some pressure to open the oyster shell, it is important that the angle of the knife is paid special attention to.
Run the knife around the oyster until you get to the other side. Be careful, as this is where you can cut or stab yourself! Using a twisting motion, pry the top and bottom shells apart. Be gentle but firm so you don’t lose any of the oyster juices inside.
3. Cut and remove the top shell. There is a muscle attached at the middle to both the top and bottom shells. When you cut the muscle, the shells will easily spread. Be careful not to spill our the oyster juice in the bottom shell.
4. Finish prying them apart and cut the oyster completely off the shells. In order to not cut up the meat, slide the knife inward, slide close against the surface of the bottom shell.
Now is the time to eat the oyster or cradle it in its shell on ice for serving.
For some people, plain oysters are the ultimate; others like to add a squeeze of lemon and/or a little hot sauce.
How to Purchase Fresh Oysters in The Shell:
When choosing oysters at the market, make sure that they be fresh. If one is open (which it should not be) it should snap shut emphatically once tapped. If an oyster does not close immediately, do not buy or use it.
Oysters should feel heavy and full in your hand. Oysters lose moisture once they are removed from the sea. The heaviness suggests that they are freshly harvested.
Oyster tip from Frank Bak: Tap two oysters together or one to the other. If there is a hollow sound, the oyster is dead. If the sound is solid, the oyster is alive.
Fresh oysters should smell sweet and briny like the sea.
How to Store Fresh Oysters:
Keep the unopened oysters cold but do not store in water! Remember, oysters are alive and need to breathe, so never seal them tightly in a plastic bag. Never immerse live oysters in fresh water or melted ice – it will kill them.
- Sandwich a layer of live oysters between two (2) beds of ice. Place them deep side down (to retain their juices). I do this in a portable (picnic-type) chest cooler. Oysters stored this way will keep for 2 days. This is the method to use if you plan on using the fresh oysters soon.
- Store live oysters in the refrigerator at 40 degrees F. if they are not to be used immediately. Place them deep side down (to retain their juices) in an open container. Cover the oysters with a damp towel or layers of damp newspaper. Oyster store this way will keep up to 5 to 7 days.
Open (shuck) shortly before serving – not more than 2 hours. The colder the oyster, the easier it is to shuck. Keep oysters cold at all times, partly for safety and very much to enhance flavor and texture.
How to Steam Oysters
This technique will produce an oyster that is only slightly cooked (more towards raw).
Steaming oysters is an easy technique to open the oysters. In a large pot, bring water to a boil (not more than 1/2 cup to 2 dozen medium-size oysters). Using long-handled tongs, place the scrubbed and rinsed oysters (round half of oysters down) on the bottom of the pot. Cover the pot let steam approximately 3 to 4 minutes or until the shells open. Life the oysters out gently so that you do not spill the wonderful oyster juice in the shells.
How to Slurp Fresh Oysters
You can either use a little fork to pick the oyster out, or you can do like most people do and slurp them out of their shell into your mouth.
- Cradle the shell in a hand, grasping it with your thumb and first two fingers. Some people look for what they call the “sipping lip” part of the shell before planting their lips on it.
- When ready, slurp up the oyster, savoring the taste in your mouth.
- Drink up the salt-watery juice in the shell, too. It is part of the treat!
- Eat the entire oyster in a single slurp. Remember, you do not want to see what is inside an oyster. You just want to taste it!
Recommended condiments include:
- lemon wedges
- cocktail sauce
- chili sauce
- horseradish, and hot sauce.
- Drink the liquor out of the shell.