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:
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):
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.
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.