Eating oysters has been compared to giving the sea a kiss on the lips. Fresh oysters are an elegant and adventurous dish to serve but shucking them can be tricky and dangerous.
Have no fear!
Executive Chef Scott Carroll from Devon Seafood Grill (225 S. 18th Street) demonstrated each step of the process.
Before you begin, you’ll need fresh oysters and an oyster knife. You can find oyster knives at almost any kitchenware store or your supermarket may carry them in the seafood section. You’ll want a knife with a thick handle (the material of the handle doesn’t matter—go with your preference) and a short, rounded blade.
You’ll want to be extra particular about the oysters you shuck, especially when you will be eating them raw. When buying oysters, Chef Carroll suggests asking for the tag. This will give you the location the oysters are from, as well as how long they’ve been out of the water. All suppliers are required to keep them on file for 90 days. The fresher the better—Chef Carroll recommends buying oysters that have been out of water for no longer than nine days. Merchant not willing to show you a tag? Not a good sign.
Chef Carroll said that Devon Seafood Grill receives oysters from a variety of suppliers. You can buy them locally from Samuels & Son Seafood Company or from Wan's Seafood, John Yi Fish Market and Golden Fish Market stands at the Reading Terminal Market.
Once you have your oysters and an oyster knife, you're ready to start shucking.
1) Protect your hand: Safety first. You want to wear a glove or use a towel to safely get a grip on the oyster. “Get as many layers between the blade and your hand,” said Chef Carroll.
2) Pop the hinge: Take the point of the knife and stick it by the hinge of the oyster. Wriggle the knife until you hear the pop of the hinge opening.
3) Open the oyster: Chef Carroll said the trick to presenting oysters is to run the knife along the top of the shell so you don’t cut into the meat. Remember that practice makes perfect and to take your time.
4) Separate the muscle: Carefully run your knife on the bottom of the shell to separate the muscle. Make sure to remove any bits of shell from the oyster cup. Keep as much “liquor,” or the salty brine of the oyster, in the shell. That’s the good stuff.
When presenting the oysters, make sure you keep them on ice. You can serve them with lemon or Tabasco sauce. Chef Carroll said to aim to enhance the flavor of the oyster and not mask it with a heavy sauce. Let oyster-eating newbies know that it's perfectly acceptable to chew on the oyster meat if they are wary about slurping it. Chef Carroll says that chewing the meat allows you to get a real sense of the flavor of the oyster and find out which types you enjoy the most.
(All photos by Colin Kerrigan/Philly.com)