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Over the years, American Mussel has seen A LOT of oyster shucking styles. We’ve reviewed the “fast and furious”, the “safety first”, the “super slick”, the “slow and steady”, and even the “knife wielding madmen” in a wide variety of settings. We’ve shucked oysters on stage and camera, in the galley of boats at sea, in parking lots from the back of a pickup truck, while fishing on frozen lakes, and in numerous cities. We’ve witnessed people use odd tools like rocks, screwdrivers, lag bolts, hammers, simple machines and pneumatic shuckers. Traveling throughout the world, and always seeking out a good oyster, we are eager to share our stories and styles with shucking masters and amateurs alike.

This page was created to address the need for a tutorial that includes several methods of shucking a wide variety of oysters with very different physical characteristics. As always, practice extreme care and caution when shucking oysters and working with knives.

Let's Get Started

There are actually FOUR sides to an oyster! Not really, but to a shucker there is. There is the top shell, the bottom shell, the “lip” or “bill”, and the “hinge”. This is the first thing a seasoned shucker will draw their attention to when picking up an ice chilled oyster they are getting ready to shuck. Once properly oriented, they’ll generally study the shape, size, weight, cleanliness, and shell quality. Ok, some just pick it up and hope they don’t end up in an emergency room, but spending a brief moment observing these characteristics may help determine the best approach to unveil the briny, metallic, sweet morsel inside.

Two Major Divisions

For the sake of organizing this page, we will draw attention to one of the first questions easily asked among most shuckers. Do you go through the hinge or the lip?

"Lip" or "Bill" Shucking

Sometimes called the “Stabber” style, entering the shell of the oyster at the lip near the adductor muscle can prove to be highly efficient and usually requires much less energy than other methods. It is best performed with a smaller, thinner knife that limits drag and friction. This shucking approach allows for a quick severing of the adductor muscle and release of the top oyster shell. The lip shuck method avoids the heavy prying and twisting required when entering the oyster from the hinge and works particularly well on younger or thinner shelled oysters. If you find your hinge shucking technique is causing the top or bottom shell to break, try a lip shucking method for better success. Depending on the shucker, this can be served either on the flat shell (Chesapeake style) or in the cupped shell (Cape Style).

Hinge Shucking

Entering the oyster through the hinge is a very popular method of learning to shuck. The hinge is easily identifiable and it allows the shucker to use a table for support as opposed to shucking “in hand” only. Overall, it is probably the most dynamic way of entering an oyster and can be performed using a number of different oyster knife styles. More often, longer and sturdier blades are required when hinge shucking. It is a great method for the largest and thickest shelled oysters typically served in the cupped (bottom) shell. It is also easily performed on the smallest of oysters whose lip may be hard to navigate. The method requires a firm and controlled prying of the knife tip into the hinge of the oyster. Once the knife is partially embedded in the hinge, a side to side prying motion will “pop” the top shell at the hinge allowing the knife to move forward to cut the adductor muscle and remove the top shell. Once the top shell is removed, the straight edge of the knife can cut through the lower part of the adductor mussel that is still attached to the cupped shell. The oyster can be easily manipulated and presented in it’s own “liquor” when serving or preparing.

Watch our videos on shucking oysters

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