How to Shuck Oysters

Shucking oysters is not for the faint of heart. At best, it’s awkward — at worst it can be like sword fighting with a tiny mollusk in armor.

Until now, dear home cooks! Our crafty fishmongers and chefs have put their heads together and created this detailed how-to for you. They’ll have you shucking like a professional in no time at all.

And, oh boy, is it worth it to learn: We love a fresh oyster in the half shell, cold and briny, with just a spoonful of vinegar and shallot. Or a cooked one, layered in a po-boy, baked Rockefeller style, or tossed in an herby Thanksgiving stuffing!

Note: You’ll need a clean dish towel and a good oyster knife. We prefer a knife with an easy-to-grip plastic handle.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Shucking Oysters

Step 1: Rinse the oysters in cold water, picking off any barnacles, dirt, sand, or other flotsam.

Step 2: Prepare an ice cold, saltwater bath. You’ll want a ¼ cup of salt per 4 cups of water.

Step 3: Plunge the oysters into the saltwater bath and refrigerate them for 1 hour. The oysters will filter the cold water, purging any sand they may have in the process.

Step 4: Line your non-dominant hand with a folded dish towel and use it to grasp the oyster by its wider, front side — so that its cupped side is down and its hinge (where the shells taper together) is pointing out. Anchor your oyster hand on a sturdy surface, like the kitchen counter.

Step 5: In your dominant hand, pick up the oyster knife and grip it firmly. (You'd look pretty foolish at this point if oysters weren't part of the equation. Lucky for you, they are.) Stick the point of your knife into the hinge of the oyster shells. (You may have to wiggle it around a bit to find an opening.) With gentle force, push the knife inwards and turn it like a key. If you are lucky, you’ll hear a pop — and you’re almost there!

Step 6: Next, run the knife along the edges of the opened shell, and remove the top.

Step 7: And finally, run the knife under the flesh of the oyster to disconnect it from the bottom shell. Inspect the oyster and remove any loose shell. Place the oyster in the half shell on a tray lined with crushed ice — and move on to the next oyster.