Opening fresh oysters is a delicate process that involves opening the shell and removing the meat without losing the oyster's nectar, which is the delicious juice inside. Getting through the hard shell to get to the juicy parts requires a steady hand and the right materials. Learn how to choose the right oysters to open perfectly, the proper technique for opening them, and how to eat them when they are free of their shells.
Method 1 of 3: Preparing to Open the Oysters
Step 1. Choose fresh oysters
The oysters should still be alive when you open them. If they are already dead, they are not safe to eat. Choose oysters with the following characteristics:
- Shells closed. If an oyster shell is open, it is likely already dead. Tap the shell lightly, just in case. If it closes immediately, the oyster is still alive and good to eat.
- A fresh smell of the sea. Fresh oysters smell sweet and salty, like the air by the sea. If an oyster stinks or "spoiled," it's probably not fresh.
- It looks heavy. Place the oyster in the palm of your hand. If it's really heavy, that means it's still full of seawater and was probably freshly harvested. If it's unusually light, the seawater has dried up and it's no longer fresh.
Step 2. Have the correct materials nearby
In addition to a good bag of fresh oysters, you will need the following materials:
- A stiff bristle brush.
- Thick gloves.
- An oyster knife or other knife with a heavy blade that won't break.
- An ice surface to keep oysters fresh until serving time.
Step 3. Understand the anatomy of the oyster
Before starting to open, take a close look at an oyster so that you know the right way to handle it as it opens.
- The hinge is the muscle that connects the upper and lower shells at the pointed end of the oyster.
- Opposite the hinge is the rounded front of the oyster.
- The top of the oyster is the flattest shell.
- The bottom shell is cup-shaped.
Method 2 of 3: Opening the Oysters
Step 1. Put on gloves
Oyster shells are sharp and you'll definitely cut yourself if you're not wearing a pair of thick rubber or canvas gloves when you open them. Don't ignore this simple security measure.
Step 2. Scrub the oysters to clean them
Use the stiff bristle brush to scrub the ocean dirt from the oysters.
- Wash the clean oysters under cold running water.
- When dealing with each one, double-check that the oysters are alive and fresh.
Step 3. Hold an oyster in one hand, cup-shaped side down
The curved side of the oyster should be against the palm of your hand. The dot, or hinge, should be facing you.
Step 4. Insert the oyster knife into the hinge
Point it under the oyster. Use a twisting motion to separate the upper shell from the lower shell. You should feel the hinge open when you twist the knife.
Step 5. Pass the blade through the top of the shell
Bring the blade as close to the top of the shell as possible and slide it through the hinge to the other side of the oyster. Continue using a twisting motion to separate the upper shell from the lower shell.
- The shell will be tightly closed, so be careful not to let the knife slip while you do this.
- Do your best not to break the shell into pieces. Some fragments can enter it, but the shell should be mostly intact.
- Do not turn the ladle to the side or turn it upside down, or the delicious juices will spill.
Step 6. Open the oyster
When the top and bottom shells are separated, open the oyster, being careful to hold it in the same position. Run the knife along the top shell to separate the remaining meat.
- Examine the oyster for shells or sand.
- If desired, carefully separate the oyster meat from the lower shell; thus, you or your guest will not have to do this before eating it. Return the meat to the bottom shell before serving.
Step 7. Serve the oysters
Place the open oysters on an icy surface, still floating in their juices.
Method 3 of 3: Eating the oysters
Step 1. Squeeze a sauce onto the fresh oyster
Use chili sauce, vinegar sauce or lemon juice.
Step 2. Bring the oyster to your lips and suck
Suck the whole oyster meat in one gulp.
Step 3. Drink the oyster juice
Fresh and salt water is a perfect accompaniment.
- Live oysters last in the refrigerator for up to a week. Open oysters, covered in their own liquid, can last up to two days.
- Oysters can be consumed year round. However, oyster meat is not so fresh in the summer months.
- Putting the oysters in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes may make it easier to open, but it loses some of its freshness.
- Do not use bare hands to hold the oyster. The grooves in the shell are sharp and opening too many of them can hurt your hand.
- After sliding the knife into the oyster to open it, it is important to use the correct angle and twist and firm force to open the oyster without damaging the meat.