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Fat Guy

Oyster shucking crash course

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Good work on the shucking! Looks like a lovely party.

Last point - have your dish of crushed ice prepared before you start opening. You want something to nestle the open shells into, to keep those uneven objects level, retaining their juice.

Or rock salt.

I really dislike oysters on salt. I've been known to not ordering oysters in a restaurant because they serve them on salt. First, I like my oysters cold. But more importantly, rock salt stick to moist oyster shells and that salt tend to come loose when you are eating the oyster. Unless you are careful and brush the oysters off you end up with mouthful of salt.

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You're not a real oyster shucker until you get a ragged scar or two in your palm. Steven has clearly made the grade.

If you are lucky to have it nearby, rockweed is the best medium to nestle a rack of freshly shucked oysters. Those look devine. :biggrin:


"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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I'm not sure if I make the grade. My stab wound is in the curve between the index finger and thumb. Does that count as the palm? In any event, it hurts like hell.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I thought the first 'deep stab wound' comment above had to have been made in jest, however, let me now hasten to wish you rapid healing.

But what happened? (Glove, etc?)


"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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It's coming along nicely and looks much better today:

gallery_1_295_27159.jpg

It still hurts a lot, though.

The gloves we had were cut-resistant but not puncture-resistant. Therefore I didn't use one. I used the countertop method. Ostensibly with that method if you slip the knife goes into the counter or the towel. Most of the time it does, but if you slip just the right way it goes into your hand.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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My father has mad skillz as a shucker, even though he's never been a cook. He managed enormous paper mills for a living, mostly in Quebec. Every year the Pulp and Paper Makers Union had an Oyster party -- 100 barrels of oysters. Management were the shuckers.

He can open an oyster quicker than you can say "Shuck" and always says: "It's easy, just find the hinge."

He's in his 80s now, and his hands are still scarred with many long-ago oyster scars. I mean a road map of scars. (As many many cases of Molson's and Labatt's were consumed at these amazing parties, I'm sure alcohol might have contributed to the wounds.)

But he learned. I doubt if there are many octogenarian gardeners reading through Herodotus for fun who can tame an oyster faster than Daddy.


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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... I used the countertop method. Ostensibly with that method if you slip the knife goes into the counter or the towel. Most of the time it does, but if you slip just the right way it goes into your hand.

Ouch - glad both that its getting better and that you missed the important moving parts - but really there should be no way past the towel ...

... I fold the towel back over the oyster, grip the shell from above (through the towel) with my open palm and flick the rest of the towel back over my gripping hand. ...

I'm definitely not quick with the things. I'm happy just to win in the end!


"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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I'm not sure if I make the grade. My stab wound is in the curve between the index finger and thumb. Does that count as the palm? In any event, it hurts like hell.

Doesn't count. The blade has to go through the webbed part there. Gotta work on your aim. :wink:


"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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The wound is now almost healed, but still visible if you look closely.

In other news, today I was up on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx and went to Randazzo's, a place where they shuck clams and oysters at a workstation out on the sidewalk and serve them to you on crummy plastic trays. I noticed that the shucker used a technique not discussed here:

He would insert the side of the blade near the hinge, then grab the shell and, with the exposed part of the blade facing down, whack the whole package two or three times on the edge of his stainless table. This severed the hinge and the rest seemed easy.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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That's a really bad spot for an injury, as it's almost impossible not to keep tearing the wound open with virtually any movement of forefinger or thumb. I accidentally buzzsawed the webbing on my right hand there, just a few millimeters over from where your cut is, on a cat food can lid back in February. I needed four stitches and a temporary cast to help it heal. I was out of work for almost a week and it took two weeks before I had my strength back in that hand. :sad:


Katie M. Loeb
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Excellent news from the Recovery Room!

However, I remain utterly convinced that these dagger-style knives like the Oxo

http://www.oxo.com/OA_HTML/xxoxo_ibeCCtpOX....jsp?item=47722

are an accident waiting to happen - particularly for beginners.

I have one something like that in the drawer, and choose not to use it.

While I can't offer a source for the French knife I prefer, it is very similar in style to an offering from Victorinox.

http://www.allianceonline.co.uk/restaurant...d-lvok0010.html

Forschner do seem to offer it in the US, --but-- they also offer the dagger style (which seems to be associated with various New England placenames).

The really short blade, combined with the finger-guard, greatly limits the distance a skidding blade can go, and the damage it could do.

Being SAFER, I think that makes the guarded style particularly valuable to the novice oyster-shucker.

For those within reach of a branch of Waitrose, they were offering such a style of knife (on the fish counter) for just £4.95 ... (maybe worth asking if its not on view). Cheaply made with a metal handle, but absolutely all you need to start with. (Apart from some dishcloths and the oysters!) And their oysters (especially when reduced below 55p) are very nice indeed.


"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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Excellent news from the Recovery Room!

However, I remain utterly convinced that these dagger-style knives like the Oxo

http://www.oxo.com/OA_HTML/xxoxo_ibeCCtpOX....jsp?item=47722

are an accident waiting to happen - particularly for beginners.

I have one something like that in the drawer, and choose not to use it.

While I can't offer a source for the French knife I prefer, it is very similar in style to an offering from Victorinox.

http://www.allianceonline.co.uk/restaurant...d-lvok0010.html

Forschner do seem to offer it in the US, --but-- they also offer the dagger style (which seems to be associated with various New England placenames).

The really short blade, combined with the finger-guard, greatly limits the distance a skidding blade can go, and the damage it could do.

Being SAFER, I think that makes the guarded style particularly valuable to the novice oyster-shucker.

For those within reach of a branch of Waitrose, they were offering such a style of knife (on the fish counter) for just £4.95 ... (maybe worth asking if its not on view). Cheaply made with a metal handle, but absolutely all you need to start with. (Apart from some dishcloths and the oysters!) And their oysters (especially when reduced below 55p) are very nice indeed.

I have shucked hundreds on hundreds of oysters and use a knife (Victorinox) like this one. Mine is home made though and very heavy. It weighs about a pound. I let the knife do all the work. I buy my oysters by the bushel and can shuck them in less than a half hour and that includes drinking a couple brews while doing it. I always suggest a newbie do it the way mentioned with the towel. It is much safer and there is no need to be a speed demon. Be safe and enjoy the experience. I just hold them in my left hand and stick the knife in and pop them open but with lack of experience and a cheap knife, that is a bad accident waiting to happen. My knife doesn't even have an edge on it, just a somewhat sharp point to get it started and to spread the shell. Well, now I am craving some on the half shell. Down to the corner to pick up a sack. Hope Mr Folse has some left for the day.


Edited by Steven Murphy (log)

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I stayed at self-catering accomodation on holiday this month. I'd never shucked my own, but bought half a dozen oysters from the fishmonger, who gave a basic explanation of how to shuck them.

The kitchen was well-equipped with tableware, and fairly well with cooking equipment (not so good on knives - I sliced tomatoes with the cheap old bread knife). There was nothing like an oyster-shucker, but on the second morning driving my rental car, an old screwdriver had rolled out on to my feet from under the dash - maybe 8" long, with a well-worn wooden handle and a straight blade maybe 1/8" or 3/16" (4-5mm) wide. Carefully washed, this was my shucker.

I took the "bare hands, hold in one hand and open with the other", approach. I thought it was easy :raz: It just takes moving the blade tip a little from side to side to find the path of least resistance - wherever the blade goes in deepest. It took moderate pressure to keep the blade engaged while twisting it to open the shell, but never felt like enough that I'd lose control of it.

I second the comments about being sure to scrub the oysters first to get sand and grit off the outside.

The oysters came from the Kyle of Tongue, just by Scotland's northernmost point. They tasted very like Miyagi bay oysters and were very, very good.

gallery_51808_6746_87003.jpg

My favourite other improvisation was a disposable foil pie-plate shaped to hold paper coffee filters. And I'm prepared to find that bigger oysters (and thinner-shelled oysters) are more of a challenge :wink:


Edited by Blether (log)

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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I want to thank posters on this topic for the tip about the towel folded back over your holding hand -- works a treat!

Also, I just discovered this trick by accident with my most recent batch the other night. Maybe it's obvious to everyone else on the planet, but in the case of a a slightly curved blade like that on the Oxo, point the curve down, not up. It must have something to do with the shape of the oyster hinge, but the point went right in there when I had it, uh, pointed in the right direction.

Blether, those are some beautiful oysters, and I bet they were delicious.

- L.

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I had a chance to watch a couple of serious oyster shuckers last night at the bar at Felix's on Iberville St. in New Orleans, and for their non-stop shucking stations they had U-shaped cradles that looked like they were coated with textured rubber or maybe just covered with a towel, attached to the front edge of the counter so they could place the oyster in the cradle on end and drive the knife straight down through the hinge to open the oyster, then turn it quickly in one motion to keep most of the liquor in the shell, take off the top shell, clean it up and place it on a tray. It looked like they were using 4" Dexter knives. Not much danger to hands with this method, and they could easily open a dozen oysters in a couple of minutes this way.

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In the interests of research and one last bowl of crawfish etouffee before heading back to New York, I stopped at Felix's for lunch when it was a bit quieter and I could get a closer look at the oyster station, and the cradle it turns out is actually a strip of grey rubber, maybe 4"x12"x3/8" folded into a rounded "M" shape, resting in a square stainless steel tray.

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I had a chance to watch a couple of serious oyster shuckers last night at the bar at Felix's on Iberville St. in New Orleans, and for their non-stop shucking stations they had U-shaped cradles that looked like they were coated with textured rubber or maybe just covered with a towel, attached to the front edge of the counter so they could place the oyster in the cradle on end and drive the knife straight down through the hinge to open the oyster, then turn it quickly in one motion to keep most of the liquor in the shell, take off the top shell, clean it up and place it on a tray. It looked like they were using 4" Dexter knives. Not much danger to hands with this method, and they could easily open a dozen oysters in a couple of minutes this way.

I discovered something somewhat similar available (retail) in Europe.

The original seems to be a thing called Le Clic Huitre.

Its French and available in the UK via the Loch Fyne chain.

http://shop.lochfyne.com/Products/Oyster_Knife

However, there is a very very very close lookalike sold in the UK under the budget "Kitchen Craft" label.

I paid £6 (roughly $10 US) for mine.

Throw away the joke knife. (Even if it looks identical to the one in the French-sourced kit.)

The rubber block on the other hand is a very definite keeper.

The hooked front edge keeps it secure on the worktop edge.

And the hollow holds oysters secure and (importantly) level.

Light pressure from a towel-shrouded hand atop the oyster ensures that it represents a stationary target.

Used with a finger-guard equipped knife, it would be very hard for a novice to damage themselves.

A highly affordable triumph of technology for the occasional or neophyte shucker.

Highly recommended.

I found mine in a real shop, but for illustration, here's one online source

http://www.heritage-gifts.co.uk/kitchen-craft-oyster-opening-set-blister-p-24140.html


"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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Le Clic Huitre looks like a good thing, but a bit different from what these guys were using, since they were holding the oyster on the edge and driving the knife straight down through the hinge instead of keeping the oyster flat and level with the counter surface. I suppose they were losing some of the liquid that way, but not too much, since they were working fast and not opening the oyster all the way in the vertical position.

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I learned how to shuck oysters from The Hog Island Oyster Lover's Cookbook.

I'd never done it before, but after reading this book and buying the knife and gloves they recommended, it was easy peasy. I shucked 2 dozen without ruining a single one. :)

The knife is the Dexter Oyster Knife (4") and I highly recommend it:

http://tinyurl.com/ycwy49k

The knife isn't sharp. It's not really a knife at all.

The pros at Hog Island sharpen theirs, but I didn't and it worked fine.

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Oysters vary in size and shape the world over and there is no one Universal method to safely and efficiently open them all.

I have shucked literally at least ten thousand oysters in my lifetime and have learned one Universal truth- You will slip and if not wearing protection, you will injure yourself. I will spare you the ER visit many years ago and recovery from such a slip.

There are many different types of oyster knives available as there probably are species. A selection of all of them is required and one must learn which knife for which species and what technique. I believe 'Hollywood' from the Acme Oyster House had established a Certification with the State for 'Oyster Shuckers', a worthwile thing to do.

Short of training; practise, use protection and be careful.

Morty the Knife Man has many patterns and we have them all in one drawer along with clam knives. Its just a search for the knife to match the oyster.

Of course you can always purchase 'Gold Band' oysters and open them with a butter knife!-Dick

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