"Be good to the oyster and the oyster will be good to you."
The act of shucking an oyster—that is, wedging open a locked shell with a sharp blade—can seem intimidating. And it is, sort of. Juan Moore, the resident shucker at Nashville's Fin & Pearl, says that his very first month opening oysters, he experienced a few minor mishaps under the pressure of the restaurant rush. (Before starting his current position, he shucked over at The Southern for four years.)
Fortunately for home cooks interested in shucking and serving raw oysters at their next dinner party, there's no rush, and the process is easier than you might think, he insists.
"You have to be gentle, but it's easy," says Moore, who works Fin & Pearl's shucked-to-order raw bar. "If I can do it, you can do it."
Here, Moore's tips for shucking oysters like a professional.
Assemble your oysters, an oyster knife, and a towel. That's all you'll need. (You can wear gloves if you like.)
Hold your oyster tightly.
"The most important thing is to make sure you always hold your oysters very tightly, so you can be in control of the oysters," Moore says. "And you always want to take your time. You can’t be in rush." (So blast some Adele if that's what it takes you to slow down.)
Make sure that the hand holding the oyster is covered with a dish towel. "You don't really need a glove, but use a towel."
Approach the bottom of the oyster with the knife.
"It will never open up from the top side—you always have to approach it from the bottom of the oyster," Moore says. "There’s always a soft spot at the bottom of the oyster."
The next part is simple, and doesn't require much force.
"All you got to do is stick it in the hinge, add a little pressure, and twist. That’s all you have to do. You don’t have to be strong. Be good to the oyster and the oyster will be good to you. It will open up to you."
Free the oyster.
The final step is the easiest one. After scraping the oyster from the top shell and lifting off the shell, all that's left to do is slide the knife under the oyster to free it from the bottom shell.
"From your chest to the other side, make a little 'u' shape with the knife," Moore says, until you cleanly sever the muscle that connects the oyster to the shell.
Now you are free to assemble on ice—or anywhere you want—and serve with a bright mignonette or a couple wedges of lemon.
Have more questions about oysters? We answer them all here.