How To Shuck An Oyster

Jerry Fraser of Print Hall in Perth, Australia shucks 5,000 oysters a week. He does it with such finesse, with such ease, he can carry on a meaningful conversation and have a dozen oysters shucked by the time you move on to the next topic. He’s an oyster-shucking master who’s so completely passionate about what he does, people from all over Australia come to Perth just to see him in action. I feel incredibly privileged that I had the opportunity to learn from the master directly; what follows are some pictures and more video of Jerry giving his oyster-shucking master course. Turns out you just need one tool and the rest is skill.

What is that tool? Well as Jerry explains in the video above, it’s a knife:

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Get a knife like that–one without a guard, just small enough to stick inside an oyster–and then all you have to do is practice. What is it you’re practicing? Finding the sweet spot.

First, you’ll want to put a guard on your knife-holding thumb (Jerry uses the rubber thumb covers people use who handle money):

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This protects you from sharp parts of the shell and also from the blade of the knife.

Then it’s all about finding the sweet spot. This is harder to describe without showing you; it’s best illustrated in the video at the top of this post. You can really see where on the oyster clock Jerry slides the blade in (about 7 o’clock). When he says you want it at a 30 degree angle, he’s talking about the vertical angle as you push the knife in. Here’s the key: if you find the sweet spot, your knife will go straight through—sort of like cutting up a chicken. You know when you’ve found a joint because your blade goes right through it; same with the oyster. Find the sweet spot and push your knife in to sever the membrane. Once you’ve done that, all you have to do is rotate the blade to flip off the top shell as illustrated here.

In case it was hard to tell, all that happens, once you have the knife wedged in, is you turn the knife and the top pops off. That’s all there is too it. After that, you just want to be sure to keep the oyster balanced so you don’t lose any liquid and to use the blade to get rid of any bits of shell. Whether or not you want to rotate the oyster is entirely up to you.

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Some other useful bits:

* When eating oysters, be sure to chew the oyster. That’s how you get all the flavor. Never swallow them whole.

* Oysters are only as good as the water in which they grow. The colder and cleaner the water, the better the oysters will be. The best oysters of Jerry’s life were experienced in Northern Ireland.

* While there are many ways to dress an oyster (mignonette, lemon juice, cocktail sauce), Jerry eats his plain. “I’m a purist,” he says, surprising no one.

Be sure to follow Jerry on Twitter (@jerryfraser) and the next time you’re in Perth, Australia, do yourself a favor and pull up a stool at Jerry’s Bar. An oyster-lover can do no better.

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8 comments

  1. I love the oysters from the Willapa Bay in, of course, Oysterville Washington. BUT, I have also had absolutely amazing oysters in the North of Ireland. At the Carrigart Hotel. So effing good!

  2. Jerry…he is a national treasure. One of the best people in the industry, not only does he know what he’s talking about but his personality make those oysters taste that little bit better…if that’s possible.

  3. awesome. I’m totally addicted. Is there a full length video you could add for the likes of me? I was so disappointed when the first one stopped and the second is just too short to relieve my needs…

  4. Sorry, that’s all I was able to capture in those fleeting moments. You may just have to pack a bag to Perth to learn from Jerry in person!

  5. This is very helpful. I’m donating my oyster knife and getting a guard-less one. FYI, you say “That’s all there is too it.” in the paragraph above the last picture. Just one extra “o” in to.

  6. Christmas — “Noel”, where I live — is coming, and every year at the family gathering it’s my job to shuck the oysters (huitres) . Those who eat them get a half dozen apiece. It varies from year to year, but, in general, I don’t have to do more than 3 dozen. At 3 per minute, it’s not a big deal. It helps not to have to free the flesh clinging to the shell by rotating it. The party-goers do that part themselves — as expected in most of the restaurants in our district.

  7. The similar kind of oyster you can get in Chile.
    Yes its way back I think the place is Concepcion or Lirquen.
    If I am not mistaken. The other place to get them in their full beauty is Malaysia Johar baru.

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