Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Oyster Shucking 101

Nantucket Oyster
Let's face it, there are a lot of things in this world that can make you feel a little inadequate. Let's get rid of one of those things. Learning to shuck an oyster is daunting, especially because there's a good chance you're going to stab yourself at some point during your oyster shucking lifetime. But once you do learn, you're going to be the life of the party, and will also get to speak the words that were once spoken to you, "What do you mean you can't shuck an oyster?!"
Step 1: Know the tools. You'll need a proper oyster knife, one of the ones with a big thick handle, and a nice blunt blade with a little curve to the sharp, triangle tip at the end that will pry open the hinge of the oyster. You'll also need a good thick glove to grip the oysters, but I prefer using a kitchen towel that I can fold up real thick, and am not afraid to get mighty filthy with that briny, delicious oyster juice.
Step 2: Make sure you've got some mega fresh oysters if you're planning on shucking and then throwing a few back raw. On Nantucket, surrounded by drunken oyster lovers and ready to compete in an oyster shucking contest, we purchased our shellfish from a little place called East Coast Seafood, located at 167 Hummock Pond Road in the middle of the island. They had some really lovely, and surprisingly affordable local Nantucket oysters. Our oysters in hand, we went back to the house ready to shuck and suck as it were.
Position oyster in kitchen towel
Step 3: Assume the position. Fold up your kitchen towel a few times, and sandwich the thin flat portion of the oyster into the folds of towel with the pointy hinge part pointed out of the towel. You'll want to do this standing up so that you can put the palm of your hand over the flat portion of the oyster that's sandwiched with paper towel, and apply pressure. Note, protect yourself with the hand towel. Don't get stabby.

Position the knife in hinge
Step 4: Properly position the knife. With the tip pointed upwards, work the triangle into the little hinge of the oyster. Apply pressure downward and into the oyster. When it feels like the hinge is about to give, you can give a little wiggle with the knife and work it into there. Eventually the oyster's muscle is going to go, and the hinge will be released, shooting the knife straight into the flesh of the shellfish. 

Release meat from shell
Step 5: Release the meat from the shell. I like to drag the knife blade along the top to cleanly remove the flesh from the top shell, and then I remove the top shell. I then use the knife  to remove the remaining attached muscle from the shell so that the flesh of the oyster will cleanly slide from shell into the mouth of the consumer. While removing the flesh from the shell, also be careful to try to not pierce anything. This just makes for a prettier oyster. There, you've done it. Good job. Check out that glistening oyster glory. 

A properly shucked, shiny oyster
Oyster shucking contests are a fun way to start off a party. Now you can complete. Go forth and prosper, New Englanders and those who embrace their inner New Englander. 

East Coast Seafood
167 Hummock Road
Nantucket, MA 02554
(508) 228-2871

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