If you didn’t know, oyster shucking takes skill — and the wise even wear safety gloves. So, what happens then when you want to enjoy these tasty little bivalves at home and have trouble wielding an oyster knife without serious peril to life and limb?
“The only thing keeping the shell shut is the oyster’s adductor muscle that it clenches to keep the shell shut,” says Ryan Croxton who, along with his brother Travis runs Virginia-based Rappahannock Oyster Company, which was started by their great grandfather in 1899.
“The second the oyster is no longer alive, it lets go of the shell,” Croxton says.
Once the shell is open, it is much easier to cut the goodness out. So, how do you go about opening the shell without an oyster knife? Here, serves up three easy — if somewhat unorthodox — ways to open an oyster.
Freeze the Oyster
Freezing and thawing is the easiest hands-off method of opening oysters, according to Croxton. “Honestly, a lot of these things happen to us on the farm — we have oysters that are exposed to low tide in the middle of the winter, and they get hit by the freezing cold, they’ll die, and the second they thaw, they open,” he says.
“So, if you want to bring that into the kitchen, just stick your oysters in the freezer, let them thoroughly freeze, and then put them in the refrigerator. As they start to thaw down, they’ll pop up, and then you’re in. The nice thing about it is, once you put them in the refrigerator, the texture will come back, and it’s not going to change the flavour.”
Grill the Oyster
Any type of heat — from boiling, steaming, even microwaving — will kill the oyster and release its shell, but Croxton’s preferred method is the grill. “You can get a lot more flavour in them with a grill,” he says.
While the oysterman first shucks and stuffs his oysters before returning the shell and putting them on the grill, he says you can skip that step.
“If you’re struggling to get into the oyster, you can just put it on the grill. It’ll pop open and then you can add whatever you want to pile on,” Croxton says. A few of his suggestions: fresh spinach and cheese for Oysters Rockefeller, a simple garlic butter, or barbecue sauce.
Microwave the Oyster
Purists might be horrified, and freezing is a much more sanitary method, says Croxton, but, in a pinch, “You can go to the microwave if you’re in a real hurry, like if you’ve got people coming over in five minutes,” he says.
Arrange the oysters on a plate, cupped side down, and microwave them for less than a minute. They should pop open and be ready to serve —preferably on a plate with ice, as if you spent hours adeptly shucking each.