How to Shuck an Oyster

I do not weep at the world
I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife – Zora Neale Hurston

Oysters are an acquired taste. But once you fall in love with them you can’t help but order the bivalves every time they crop up on a menu. Raw on the half shell, oysters Rockefeller, tequila-oyster shooters. Eating one is like biting into a piece of the sea. Opening that hard, gray-green irregular shaped shell on the other hand…now that’s a daunting task. Don’t let that make you shy away from enjoying oysters at home. Learn how to shuck an oyster, the right way.

Related: Why Long Island’s Commercial Oyster Industry is Booming

Little Creek Oyster will provide the glove and oyster holder, plus oyster opening 101. image: ian wile

Little Creek Oyster will provide the glove and oyster holder, plus oyster opening 101. image: ian wile

First things first, buy an oyster that’s easy to open. Many seafood shops will let you choose your oysters, and you’ll find them kept on ice. Always ask when the oysters came into the store. You want oysters harvested that day. Eat oysters within a few hours to 24 hours of harvesting. To ensure freshness look for oysters that have a tightly closed hard shell, smell like the sea and have round or teardrop shaped shells. An easy test is to bang two oysters together. If they sound like rocks hitting each other the meat inside is fresh. If you can, pick oysters that have tiny holes where the top and bottom shells meet. This has more to do with the ease of opening, than freshness.

Shuck an Oyster

You Will Need
An Oyster knife
Cloth dishtowel


Your first step to success is to use the right knife. Oyster knives have short, thin blades with a curve at the tip. They should be easy to find at most kitchen and/or home supply stores. Grab a cloth towel and wrap it around the hand that will hold the oyster. This will prevent the oyster from slipping and protect your hand.

Now place the oyster on the edge of a counter or other flat hard surface. Make sure the opening of the oyster is facing you and hold the oyster with the hand wrapped in the towel.

Grasp the knife with your free hand, the tip of the knife curving up. Place the tip of the knife in the little hole at the hinge that connects the oyster shells. (If you selected oysters with tiny holes near the top and bottom shells, this is easier to manage.)

Don’t jam the knife; instead gently wiggle it inside the oyster. Now gently twist the knife, you could lower your elbow for leverage, until you hear a pop. The top shell of the oyster should lift off and you’ll be able to use the knife to cut the muscle of the oyster at the other end.

If you love raw oysters, just slurp one down! No prep needed. If you’re cooking the oyster, gently use the knife to separate the oyster from the bottom shell. Now you’re ready to add it to your favorite dish.