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Oyster Shucking Boards


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I've shucked many oysters (several hundred), strictly recreationally, and always without any specialized apparatus. Lately, I've been thinking of adding a little panache to my oyster shucking regimen and I thought a dedicated shucking board would be a valuable addition.

Does anybody own one? Have you made one? What features are desirable?

Most oyster boards I've seen for sale look something like this

That board is called the Half Sheller (review here ). Without having tried it, I would say it falls into the "cute" category. It tries to be both a serving platter and a shucking board, which I feel is problem unless you're shucking a ridiculously small number of oysters. I also don't like that you can't secure the board to anything.

At Oyster Boy (Toronto), I've often seen the shuckers use a small oyster board, but I haven't looked closely to see the construction details.

Here's a picture of a board I am thinking of building:

oyster_board.jpg

It would feature a bench hook, to secure the board against the countertop. The depression that holds the oyster would be slightly angled (when opening from the hinge, I often come in at a slight angle). The stop overhangs the oyster "pocket" by a bit (how much?), which should effectively pin the oyster in place while shucking. Finally, the board itself is slightly angled, so that the hinge presents a better angle of attack.

What are your thoughts on this design? Is it worth it to add a trough around the edge to catch water and spilled oyster liquor?

Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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I've been shucking oyster of all sizes and pedigree for 40+ years. What you require is a good oyster knife that you like and a mesh glove or sturdy rubber glove or gloves.

I've watched 'Hollywood' http://www.louisianaseafoodnews.com/2010/06/11/the-ringmaster-at-acme-oyster-house-2/ at the Acme Oyster House in NOLA and all he uses is the above with it appears some sort of rest. Call him. He assisted the State of Louisiana is setting up an Ouster Shucking Certification Program and has shucked more oysters than anyone I have ever met.-Dick

Edited by budrichard (log)
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I can't comment on the technique,but the use of wood would be a problem,Wood and liquid don't coexist well.

A thick white plastic cutting board from the rest.supply house would be much more durable(and you could put it in the D/W to clean it up after

Bud

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kudos to you for being inventive, but oysters (at least the gulf coast ones) are so varied in thickness/shape that I don't think your device could be used consistently. For all but the most inexperienced shucker, it would take longer to fit the oyster into the device than it would to simply shuck it in hand.

P&J Oyster Company in New Orleans is the oldest continually operating oyster dealer in the US (since 1876). The processors at P&J still hold each oyster in hand to shuck....so there must be compelling reasons of speed? irregular shape? or something that keeps the pros doing it by hand.

And here's a gratuitous oyster photo, on my grill w/butter, garlic, parmesan, and parsley.

p4020060.jpg?w=150&h=112

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scrat68, I like the depression at the bottom, but the top part doesn't seem to accomplish anything a folded towel or gloved hand wouldn't. Can you comment on its function? Also, does the bottom hook onto a bench? It looks a little too small to be stable from the picture.

HungryC, I almost never eat wild-caught oysters, like the majority of Gulf Oysters would be. Oysters cultivated for the half-shell market are very consistent in shape (between 2-4 inches long, 2-3 inches wide, 1-2 inches deep would account for the vast majority of oysters I've ever eaten, from east to west coast). I've never seen a professional shucker shuck in-hand. I'm guessing it might be a Gulf Oyster thing, as I imagine some of those wild oysters would be so gnarly that they wouldn't even sit on a bench.

budrichard, I am well aware of the value of a good oyster knife etc.. and am perfectly comfortable of shucking oysters in the 'usual' manner. Much like a skilled woodworker might use a jig to help streamline repetitive tasks, I'm interested in seeing if an oyster board can streamline the process.

Check out this video of Patrick McMurray (current Guinness World Record Holder for oyster shucking) opening oysters.

http://www.twitvid.com/NDS3C

In the video, he is opening oysters on a raised pedestal, which has a central depression much like the one I'm planning on carving into my board. I can see the advantage of the height as far as gaining a favourable position, but don't see myself building something like that.

Looking at a few more videos, I think I will drop the idea of having the board at an angle. I think I got my angles screwed up in my head, and if anything you would want the board sloped towards you, which would be bad for stability.

Edited by Mallet (log)

Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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Continuing my oyster board research, I came across one sold at Rodney's Oyster House in Toronto.

link here

I believe this is the same design used at Oyster Boy. At least, the board sold at Rodney's has the same general dimensions and looks the same from the front (as in the picture linked in the OP). Here's a sketch based on the picture linked above:

Slide1.jpg

This oyster board is quite a bit simpler than the one I conceived of. The main differences are that there is no depression but rather a wedge (easier to build), and that the stop has an oval cut-out but does not by itself pin the oyster in place. The wedge, stop and bench hook are *probably* glued, rather than joined.

Many of the differences are probably aesthetic rather than functional, although I suspect that hollowing out a depression will hold the oyster better than a flat surface. I like the cut-out for the stop, and may incorporate that into my board with a slight overhang to give it more "bite". BTW, Rodney's sells those boards for $28, which seems like a fair price.

Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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I ran an oyster bar for 5 years and never had anyone do anything but shuck in hand or in a folded towel sat in the bar trough.

The above item is unlikely to work that well with Gulf Oysters as they have wildly varied shapes and sizes. Cold water oysters are generally closer in size and shape so maybe it would work better with Kumomotos or something simlar.

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BadRabbit I'd love to hear more about your oyster bar experience! Did you deal primarily in Gulf Oysters? As I noted above, Gulf Oysters, being wild, are much more variable that the cultivated oysters which comprise 99.9% of my oyster consumption, so I'm not too worried about that.

Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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Check out this video of Patrick McMurray (current Guinness World Record Holder for oyster shucking) opening oysters.

http://www.twitvid.com/NDS3C

That guy is fast and tidy -- and wears no gloves. His knife appears to be stubby enough to pry the shells open and slender enough to get under and release the meat.

I have zero experience with oyster boards but I do like the thought. A raised pedestal seems like a good idea. You can flick away (and down) debris such as dirt and shell flakes.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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We've spent several weeks over six years in Archachon, France, 0n the Archachon Bay AKA the best oysters anywhere in Europe. We stay in a friend's condo, two blocks away from (Ann's choice) the best oyster monger in Europe.

(OMG, the best,freshest oysters anywhere. Hand shucked, on order. No wimpy board needed.)

BTW, I came in second once at an oyster eating contest in Toledo, around 30 years ago. We had to qualify by eating 25 oysters at least once the week before the contest. I ate 25 nightly for three nights before the contest. On Saturday, I came in second with a total of 106 over an hour or two. My memory is failing, at 71!

I would have won, but I'd decided to start slow and wind up with a fast finish. Bad idea, I lost to someone that started fast, and the shuckers couldn't keep up. We'd get a plate of six, then sit and wait.

I did decide that since this was a free event, I'd pay for a bottle of French Champagne. I made the local news stations at 11.

BTW, Joyce gets pizzed when I want GOURMAND for my vanity plate.

The first US request gets a free oyster knife. I have an extra, and I'll pay shipping. Enjoy!!

Carpe Carp: Seize that fish!

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Another unitasker that has no place in my kitchen.

The best shucking platform is a clean, damp bar rag. Not sexy, but it works. No need for chainmail or one-hit-wonder shucking platforms that way. Just a $0.25 rag will do.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Another unitasker that has no place in my kitchen.

Good point.

But, if you wanted an oyster shucking spectacle complete with woodworking and design that does the job and wows the crowd . . .

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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That's kind of like saying a serving platter is a unitasker with no place in the kitchen, why don't we serve everything out of the pot? If you ever see someone shucking on a clean damp towel they either haven't been shucking very many oysters, or have someone else doing their linens :laugh: :laugh:

Anywho, I've finished the first prototype, here are a few pictures:

IMG_1526.jpg

IMG_1529.jpg

It's made from 1.25" cherry and walnut. In the end I couldn't decide on whether I wanted an angled board or not, so I made the bench hook short enough that it can sit on top of the counter and angle the board (as in the first picture), or hook on to the edge of the counter to use flat.

I used a stop with a cutout with no overhang, but I angled the cutout (you can see the profile in the second picture) so that the shell would tend to be pushed downward. I used a gouge for the depression and left it rough. The whole board got several coats of light mineral oil. I'll be shucking about a hundred oysters in the next couple of days, so I'll be in a better position to comment on its functionality then!

In the meanwhile, it sure sits pretty!

Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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  • 1 month later...

Well, my predicted windfall of oysters from January was a bust, as someone stole the oysters that were dropped off on my doorstep the night of the party!

As it happens, though, I recently discovered that the Chien Noir, a local restaurant, has oysters on the menu. So we picked up a dozen St-Simons to go and I got to try out my shucking board. I've uploaded a video of me shucking an oyster with it. Not the greatest shuck, but not completely embarassing either. The depression definitely holds the oyster more than laying it on a towel, and 1 shucked the dozen oysters with minimal mess (juices were well contained, no need to completely dirty up a towel). The walnut "clamp" also does a good job of pinning the oyster, and I need to apply very little pressure to hold the oyster in place.

One thing I would change would be to move the shucking area to the back of the board, and also to move the bench hook to the very front. That way using the depression would be optional (not every oyster will fit into this shape), and the chance of flipping the board when you are working near the edge would be minimized.

Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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It was a lot of fun to make, and I have enough wood for a few more so I can incorporate lessons from this version.

I haven't experienced any problems with rotational slippage. The gouged out area has good grip, and the underside of the oyster shells are fairly rough themselves: this should get more pronounced with use. I do keep a towel under the board though (it can be seen poking out of the video), which is used to wipe off the knife periodically.

Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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