A Chef Shares The Biggest Mistake You Can Make When Shucking Oysters

Shucking an oyster, opening its shell with a tool to reveal its meat, requires a bit of finesse. There's a right and wrong way to shuck anything, including corn, but messing up when opening an oyster means making a mistake with slightly higher stakes.

The process, which kills the oyster and makes it ready for consumption, should be done gently to preserve both your kitchen equipment and the meat within. Speaking with Mashed, Calvin Hwang, executive chef at Figure Eight in New York City, says "using too much force and trying too hard" is the biggest mistake people make when shucking oysters.

According to Hwang, an oyster should be easy to open. If a shell refuses to budge, the issue is likely with your technique, not with the oyster itself. If you continue to jam a knife into an oyster in the hope it will suddenly decide to open, you'll only end up frustrated with a gritty oyster in one hand and a blunt knife in the other.

Be gentle

Chef Calvin Hwang offers some expert advice that begins with examining the oyster to find the hinge. Find the area where the top and bottom of the shell meet, then slide your oyster knife between those points. Shucking an oyster requires a specific movement. "The motion of opening an oyster should be focused on twisting the knife upwards 'popping' the top shell off rather than sticking the knife forward inside the oyster," says Hwang.

When encountering a stubborn oyster, it's much better to try a different entry point. Continuing to drive the knife forward means, in Hwang's words, that you're "essentially trying to break through the shell" instead of opening the oyster at the hinge. Along with blunting your knife, which is frustrating in itself, you may end up stabbing at the meat inside, which won't make for an aesthetically pleasing plate. Even worse, fragments of the shell may break off and end up coating the meat in a layer of grit, which is not the seasoning you want on a fresh oyster.