13 February 2013

How-to: Shuck Oysters

Valentine’s day is tomorrow!  One of the most perfect dish to serve your sweetheart (aside from mountains and mountains of chocolates) are oysters.

The legend has it that Casanova, the 18th Cenury lover who admitted to seducing 122 women in his memoirs, would eat 50 oysters every morning for breakfast.  Now the question is:  are oyster really aphrodisiac? 
A team of American and Italian researchers think so!  They found that oysters are rich in rare amino acids that trigger increased levels of sex hormones.  Now although the science may prove that on a chemical level oysters are aphrodisiac, I believe that the ritual has a lot more to do with it…

If you have never bought or prepared oysters, I put together a few tips on how to buy, choose and prepare them.

What to Look for When Buying Oysters
Firstly, there are many different varities of oysters.  What I recommend is that you try to pick a region that is close to home so you know that the oysters are likely to be fresher.  Talk to your fishmunger;  he can recommend the best oyster for you.
Next, look at oyster.  The shell should be tightly closed (if it’s open this means that the oyster is already dead) and the smell should not be foul.

Always try to buy oyster on the day or the day before you are serving them. 
When you get home, simply refrigerate the oysters.  Do not store them in ice; the cold will kill the oysters.


The oyster starts at a point (called the hinge) and then flares outward into its shell shape.

The oyster may be coverd with dirt and other small debris.  Make sure you scrub the shells thoroughly under cold water before shuking them.


Tools of the trade
First, you will need a short and sturdy oyster knife.  You will also need a dishtowel to hold the oyster in place while you crack it open.  You may also want to wear an oyster glove to prevent from slicing your hand open with the oyster knife.  If you don’t have an oyster glove (because frankly there’s no real point in investing in one…) use a thick oven mitt as I do.

Shucking your Oysters

This is the easiest and safest method to shuck oysters.  Remember to take your time to reduce the chance of injuries; It is better for your sweetheart to wait a bit longer before savouring oysters than spending the night in the emergency room.

Step 1:  Place the tea towel on a flat sturdy surface.  Wrap your hand with half the towel and set the oyster flat on the remaining part.  Hold down the flared end of the oyster with your wrapped hand.

Step 2:  Insert the oyster knife in the narrow-hinged end.

Step 3:  Twist the knife until the shells loosen and the hinge pops open.  Slide the knife blade against the upper shell to cut the large muscle and free the oyster.

Step 4: Pry off the top part of the oyster to separate the two shells.  Once again, slide your knife along the bottom shell to loosen the oyster completely from the shell.

Use the towel to clean up any shell debris left in the oyster.

Serve the oysters half shelled on a bed of crushed ice with quartered lemons, mignonette sauce, hot sauce and freshly grated horseradish.

Mignonette Sauce


§  ½ cup red wine vinegar
§  1 green onion, thinly sliced
§  ½ shallot, minced
§  Freshly ground pepper
§  Sea salt

Mix all the ingredients in a small container.  Refrigerate the sauce at least 1 hour before serving.

And don’t forget, there is a 1 in 10,000 chance that an oyster will create a pearl naturally.  Who knows?  You may be the lucky winner!

For more details, visit In a Half Shell, an adorable site filled with information and tips on oysters.

Happy Shucking!

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