How to Shuck an Oyster Like a Mainer
According to Libby Davis, cofounder of Lady Shuckers mobile raw bar, the nuances are what make the Maine way the most efficient.
If you love Maine, and you’re lucky enough to not be allergic to shellfish, you’ve eaten your share of raw oysters. Maybe you’ve even done the loc
al thing and traveled to Glidden Point Oyster Farms on the Damariscotta River for “BYOB” and “shuck-your-own.” But are you prying open your bivalves the right way? And by that we mean the Maine way. “There are nuances that really make it efficient, and the best oyster possible to eat,” says Libby Davis, cofounder of the popular mobile raw bar called Lady Shuckers. First off, don’t be an idiot. “People have used slam knives, butter knives, flathead screwdrivers. Don’t,” says Davis. Use an oyster-shucking knife. Hold the knife in your dominant hand and cradle the oyster in your nondominant hand, flat side up. “I like to put my thumb on the blade of the shucking knife so that I get a little bit more leverage,” explains Davis, “and then I wrap my fingers fully around the handle.” Look down. Are you wearing gloves? You should be. “Definitely wear protection,” says Davis, who recommends an aquaculture glove, something rubber dipped with fabric on the back. “Some of the knives can be pretty sharp, especially right out of the box. In case of any slip you don’t want a trip to the hospital and, in my case, to be out of work for two weeks. That’s not fun.” Hold the oyster and knife firmly and look for a small hole, or point, where the two shells come together. Put the tip of the knife in this apex and wiggle it back and forth laterally while applying downward pressure. “Not like a car key,” says Davis. “People think it’s a car key motion, but you really have to sink the blade in there.” And then, pop. Now what? “Don’t do a lot of crazy stuff with your hands,” says Davis. “With the same motion, I just kind of rock my knife along that outer edge, severing the abductor muscle, which is what allows the oyster to open and close.” Davis explains that you also don’t have to go around the entire outside of the oyster: “That’s the Chesapeake Bay style.” Pick out any stray shell pieces or other debris, give the oyster a half-turn toward you, and then take the knife and separate the meat from the inside by running the blade along contours of the shell. “You really want as clean of a release as possible, leaving everything intact to make sure the integrity of the meat is preserved,” says Davis. If it smells clean—“like the ocean,” she says, “a little seaweedy, but not fishy”—then slurp that sweet, sweet meat.
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