• Richard Murff

It's Oyster Day!

So get shuckin’.

Whether you are pairing them with a dog bath of iced beer for a mob or a silver bucket of champagne for two, it’s hard to beat fresh oysters. You do want them fresh, and fresh oysters require shucking.

The first thing you need to know is that despite the fact that oysters hold themselves together with about 20 pounds of pressure, opening them isn’t really a matter of force, but leverage. If you are really putting your back into opening the damn thing, then you are doing it wrong. And not the eating dessert with the salad fork sort of wrong. This is a trip to the ER with stitches type of wrong. Those oyster knives are wide, flat and dull. You do not want to lose control of it.

You could use a screwdriver, but you won’t get any style points (or depending on the crowd, maybe you will). A decent oyster knife works better and they aren’t expensive. You’ll also need a heavy towel or a glove.

Now that you’ve got the proper kit, wash the thing in cold water and discard any that have opened. Hold the oyster in the gloved or covered hand with the cupped side facing down. At the tip there is a hinge or valve where the shells meet. Work the end of the knife in and just twist to pop the halves apart. Then slide the blade along the inside of the top shell to cut the adductor muscle and pitch the top shell. And you are done.

I’ve heard of technique for loosening the adductor muscle before shucking by throwing the oysters into boiling water and quickly transferring them to an ice bath before they start cooking. This seems fraught with danger: Not to your hand but to the oyster. First, the heat would cause the shell to open and you’d lose the liquor, and secondly a mishap with timing would cause you to have boiled oysters. Third, the adductor muscle is very easy to sever.

Again, like so much in life, the key to the exercise is leverage, not force. It’s how to shuck an oyster and why you’ve never won an argument with your mother.


If there is someone in your life who can’t stomach the “wiggliness” of raw, freshly shucked oysters, try them charbroiled. To do this, why not learn from the best: Drago’s [Seafood] in New Orleans. This may not be the official Drago’s recipe – the safe bet is that they’ll deny it (I would). To wit:


1 ½ dozen freshly shucked oysters

8 oz butter, melted

2 Tbls finely chopped garlic

1 tsp black pepper

¼ cup parmesan & romano cheese, grated

2 tsp flat leaf parsley

Pinch oregano, dried

Mix butter, garlic pepper & oregano. Place oysters in the half shell, Spoon enough of seasoned butter over oysters so some will drip into fire and flame up.

If in oven, 350 degrees (F). Chances are that a gas grill is likely the widest cooking surface you’ve got. They are easy to do on a ceramic cooker.

Oysters are ready when they puff up & get curly on the edges – about 5 minutes. Place the shells on a bed or plate with rock salt (will keep the shells level). Sprinkle with Parmesan, serve with French bread.

In either case pair it with a crisp, cold Muscadet or a beer.