Oysters! Whether it’s a romantic evening, a new years party, or just lunchtime on Tuesday - it’s always a good time to enjoy some oysters! Acquiring some from a local supplier and learning to open them yourself is easy and far more impressive than simply ordering them in a restaurant (not to mention more affordable). Whether you’re an amateur shucker or a pro shucking 2,000 a night in an oyster bar, having the right tools and technique is key. Let’s discuss which oyster knife is best and how to open an oyster without snapping your shucker.
First, let’s talk about varieties. Oysters come in a vast range of sizes, but at the most basic, we have two main varieties in North America: east coast or Atlantic, and west coast or Pacific. The east coast ones tend to have thinner, more delicate shells and are easier to open. West coasts are often super rocky with thick shells and are way more likely to snap a thin shucker if you’re not careful. This is a HUGE generalization, there is a lot of complexity to the subject and even a new third variety called gulf oysters, but this is a good place for beginners to start.
These long skinny ones we get from Smokey Bay, similar to the banjo style competitive shuckers use, are best for precise work and more delicate oysters. They can snap easily if you pry with them and work best in twisting motions, but they take a really nice edge for separating the oyster from the shell. The wooden handle ones are nice for home use, but the plastic ones are way more grippy when wet.
The short, thick ones are quite different. They have a sharper tip, so watch your hand! They’re tougher and better if you’re hard on your shucker. The pointy tip is excellent for sniping out the joint on rocky west-coast oysters, and they take a nice edge too.
Finally, we have this offset style with a bent tip. These are designed to give you more leverage if you’re really looking for a pry-bar of an oyster knife. These are popular with amateur and experienced shuckers alike.
You can pick your shucker based on the oysters you’re handling and your shucking technique. Let’s open these babies up!
Looking at the oyster, there’s a flat top and a curved bottom. You’ll want to set the curved side downwards to preserve the delicious brine inside the oyster. Use a folded cloth for stability. Find the joint and position it away from you. With your dominant hand, gently wiggle the tip into the joint like you’re jimmying a lock. Once you get it deep enough, twist the knife to pop the joint. NEVER PRY THE BLADE. This puts a lot of stress on the shucker, especially the thin ones, and your shucker will snap if you keep doing this.
A knife with a good edge allows you to separate the oyster cleanly, without damaging it.
Wipe off any shell fragments, then gently insert the knife into the shell, riding the blade along the underside of the top shell to separate one side of the oyster. Discard the top half, wipe your blade, and gently scrap along the bottom shell to separate the oyster on the other side. Do your best to avoid scrambling the oyster here.
Wipe away any shell fragments, and you’re ready to serve! You can serve these babies up with a little hot sauce, mignonette, or whatever other toppings you like. If you need to find yourself a shucker check out our selection, and if you need oysters in Calgary, AB, head to Meta4 Foods, where we snagged these.
Nathan started at Knifewear in 2013, when he left the restaurant industry to slang knives. Nowadays, he handles our communications, social media, and YouTube channel. If you're reading words on this website or watching one of our videos, Nathan was involved. He spends his spare time growing food, cooking, fermenting food and booze, and enjoying the great outdoors.