If you've never shucked an oyster before & you're curious and want to try, let's do it together in this step by step guide of shucking oysters and serving them up with 3 types of sauces
Oysters are one of my all time favourite foods. I love them raw, stir fried, steamed in hotpot - every possible way but today will be about the raw way.
The bonus from shucking oysters yourself at home is it costs a fraction of the costs to enjoy it - because for some reason these guys can go to up to 5 dollars a pop! Ouch! That and it's something you can cross off a bucket-list that you have done before. 😉
I don't know about you but for the longest time, I used to find it very intimidating to pry these little things open and fiddle around with the tools and potentially stab myself in the hand, but honestly after you do this 12+ times you will be a pro at it! If I can do it, you can do it! 🙂
Shucking oysters, here we come!
HOW TO PICK & STORE THEM
Use your Eyes
When you are buying the oysters make sure none of them are opened, cracked or ajar. The shell should be sealed shut. If it's opened, throw it out, it has gone bad and probably smells pretty funky!
Use your Nose
You normally can't smell an oyster if it is sealed closed, but if it is cracked, or even slightly opened, it's probably dead and you will smell it. What does it smell like? It will smell like something you don't want to put in your mouth. A rotted off-putting smell.
Tidbit: If you're wondering why opened oysters are bad, it's because when an oyster is alive it has the strength to pull the shells together shut. When it dies, the muscle relaxes and therefore the shells open up!
Store them in a cold and dry place. You can keep them on a plate or bowl in the fridge until you are ready to shuck and eat them.
SAFETY & TOOLS
Before we start shucking oysters make sure you have a thick kitchen towel, you will be using the towel to hold the oyster in place and to protect your hands.
Next you will need a good shucking tool. You want to find a shucker that has a slightly pointy tip, this will allow you to anchor into the oyster gap better. Shucker tips that have a rounded tip will not allow you to jab into the opening with precision and you will end up just shredding off shell bits. Refrain from using a sharp knife as well. It's dangerous and you don't need it to be *that* pointy to get the job done right 🙂
SHUCKING OYSTERS TIME!
First, let's get this myth out of the way. You don't need super human strength to shuck oysters. Essentially, all we are doing is getting the tool in the right spot and prying it opened with a series of side to side wiggling and see-sawing motions -- you'll need some force but not a lot.
- First, let's clean them! Grab a bristley brush, kitchen brush or old toothbrush and clean the outsides of the shell under running water really well. Get all the nooks and crannies, we don't want to eat sand and grit! 😛
- Now, let's look at the oyster's shape, there will be a bottom and a top. The bottom of the oyster is rounded like a round belly (this is where the oyster meat actually sits) and the top would be the flatter side of the shell.
- Place the oyster on the towel flat side up.
- Now we need to figure out which end to pry open. I find the easiest way to do this is to find the 'hinge' of the oyster. That is where you wan't to pry, like the image below.
- Now we will wrap the towel around the oyster and place it somewhere secure where it won't slip around. If you are using a cutting board as your working surface, make sure you put something under the cutting board so it doesn't slide around.
- Next we will poke the 'hinge' where the top of the shell meets the bottom of the shell with the shucker. You should see a small gap here. Your goal is to have the tool deep enough that if you let go of the shucker it will be stuck into the oyster hinge.
- Once you have the shucker in position, you will push firmly towards the oyster and wiggle it up and down in prying motion. You should feel a 'pop' when you get it open.
- Once you see a small opening, wiggle the shucker 90 degrees into the opening to open it up a bit more.
- It's not over yet! The oyster has 2 muscles holding it together still. You will need to run the blade along the sides of the shells wiggling lightly to open it up a bit more. Then run the blade along the top of the shell to cut the first muscle to get the top shell off.
Congrats we opened up a oyster! You can't eat them yet! They are still attached to the shell on the bottom by their second muscle. You will need to run the shucker along the bottom of the shell to cut the second muscle as well.
Ta-da! We did it! *High Five!*
Tip #1: Don't throw out the liquid inside the shell! Most people call this an elixir (oOooOOo mysterious & fancy!). To me, it's just tasty salty briny ocean water! 🙂
Make sure you smell the oyster before you eat or serve it. It should smell like the ocean, fresh! A bad oyster will have a VERY off-putting rotting smell, throw those out. If you accidentally eat a bad oyster, take a shot of alcohol! Will it work? I don't know, but it's fun!
LET'S SERVE THIS UP WITH SAUCES
Now that we have got shucking oysters out of the way, let's dress them up! Oysters have a very light and delicate flavour, so it doesn't need a lot of sauce. A tiny dash of sauce goes a long way. The key here is to enhance the flavour, not mask it. 🙂
These recipes will make more than enough sauce, I made 3 different types for variety and fun but you can stick to 1 if you like! You can cut the ingredients in half as well.
This is a lightly tart and sweet oniony vinaigrette. Traditionally, there is no sweetener in this but I find the maple syrup lightens up that strong tart flavour that masks the oyster flavour. This one is my favourite.
This is your classic cocktail seafood sauce. For anyone that wants to play it safe. 🙂
ASIAN SOY LIME
This is a limey, mildy spicy, soy dressing sweetened with a bit of maple syrup. Terry's favourite.
To serve these, place them on a bed of crushed ice on a pretty plate or tray (preferably one with a lip so that the melted ice doesn't seep everywhere). The crushed ice holds them in place, keeps them cool and it looks pretty!
You will be able to find almost all these ingredients at a local supermarket.
If you don't have maple syrup, you can substitute it with honey.
That's all there is to it! 🙂 Enjoy it with some friends, impress people at an event or party, or just do it because you can! Then eat all of it yourself! 😀
More Cooking Guides and How-Tos
- How to Devein Shrimp in Seconds
- How To Skewer Ground Meat (So That It Stays On The Sticks)
- Guide to Folding Potstickers (2 Ways)
- How to Cook Vermicelli Noodles Perfectly Every time
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Mignonette, Classic Cocktail & Asian Soy Lime Sauces for Raw Oysters
- ½ shallot (minced)
- 1 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- salt and pepper to taste
Classic Cocktail Sauce
- 3 tablespoons ketchup
- 1-2 tablespoons horseradish sauce
- 1-2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 lemon wedge of juice
Asian Soy Lime Dressing
- ½ green onion (finely chopped)
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons Sriracha chili sauce
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 lime wedge of juice
- Mix all the ingredients from either the Mignonette, Classic Cocktail or Asian Soy Lime dressing from above.
- Enjoy with freshly shucked oysters! 🙂
*Nutritional information is calculated using online tools and is an estimate*
Disclaimer: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites, however I provide these links to make items easier to find if you cannot purchase this locally and I would never recommend anything I don’t own myself or highly recommend. I would prefer you buy your items locally if possible to support your local shops (and chances are they are cheaper locally as well!) 🙂
Alyssa @ A Bite of Inspiration says
Joyce, you continue to impress me! This post is so SO good! I've never shucked oysters before but your post has given me the wings and confidence to do it! I don't even really like oysters, but I will go buy them just so I can try shucking them. Your directions make it look so fun and easy! And your dipping sauces COULD actually entice me to try them... or I can just pawn them off on my fiance.. he loves them hehe Either way, I will be buying oysters and I will be shucking them using your amazing pictures as a guide. I CANNOT WAIT!
You are too kind! I am so happy to hear that my posts can be helpful, it's such a wonderful thing. 🙂 I really hope you do it! It's a fun activity to do together as well because I can guarantee you, there will be laughs! 🙂
Marie @ Yay! For Food says
I have shucked an oyster before! What a great guide on how to shuck and serve oysters! It makes me think that even the most clumsiest person (like me) can do it! I also love how you included three sauces too; the Asian Soy Lime sounds delish!
I'm clumsy too! Nothing better than practice to beat that! I'm so happy to hear that this tutorial could be helpful! If you do a few, you'll see it's not too bad! 🙂
romain | glebekitchen.com says
That is a great tutorial. I wish this had existed when I learned to shuck oysters. Would have saved myself a few cuts along the way. I've never tried oysters with an asian soy lime seasoning. Sounds wonderful. The asian take on mignonette is pure pupswithchopsticks too!
Thanks Romain, I'm so glad you liked this tutorial, it means so much to me 🙂 I myself was once very intimidated to do this so I thought I'd share with everyone that it's not so bad to do it once you get the hang of it. 🙂 Yea you know me with my twists and oddness with switching things up 🙂 I'm happy to hear you enjoy my spin on things!
Neena | Paint the Kitchen Red says
What a great tutorial for someone like myself, who's never done this before! Thanks for the detailed instructions and 'insider tips'! I really like your take on the sauces - because they're so versatile, I'm going to serve them with shrimp. And so much tastier and healthier than jar cocktail sauce!
Thanks Neena! I was thinking the same thing! These sauces also go great with shrimp and other cold seafoods as well 🙂 Making it at home always seems like a better idea, you know whats going in and it's much cheaper!
What useful step by step instructions! I have never shucked an oyster, now I want to try! That Asian Soy Dressing looks delicious, too.
Thanks Riva! The dressing could probably be used on a salad as well! 🙂 I like versatile recipes.
mikaela | wyldflour says
I have ALWAYS wanted to find a recipe for mignonette!! To me, no oyster experience is complete without it! These are such great tips for picking and shucking oysters! We used to always go in the North Bay area in California and miss it dearly! Now we can do our own oyster experience at home!
I LOVE this post! I've never thought about or attempted to eat raw oysters at home, now I totally want to! Great advice, I feel like I could nail this technique thanks to your awesome instructions and photos. Now I just have to find a good place to get oysters in Kansas haha
Yes! I am so happy when I can help out in the kitchen! 😀 Honestly, after you do a few and get a feel for it you will be a pro at it! I'll be here if you have any questions as well! 🙂