How to Open an Oyster

Shucked Oysters


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Raw oysters on the half shell are a culinary treat. Especially when served with a delightfully bright mingonette sauce or Tabasco. And even though it might be a bit intimidating, opening the oysters is a simple task. It just takes a bit of practice.


Watch Now: How to Open Oysters

  • 01 of 06

    Clean the Oyster

    cleaning oyster

    First thing's first, clean the outside of the oyster under running water to remove any loose grit or barnacles. Rub the shell with your fingers or use a stiff brush if you have one for this purpose.

    Hold the oyster in a towel or oven mitt with the hinge (pointed side) sticking out. This will protect your hand if the oyster knife slips. With the flat side of the oyster up, insert the tip of an oyster knife near the hinge. You only need to insert the knife about 1/2-inch. ​

    Do not use a regular knife to open oysters. There is too great a risk of slipping and severely injuring yourself.

    An oyster knife is a special blunted knife made for this purpose. They're cheap, too. If you're going to buy oysters in the shell, spend a couple extra bucks for the proper knife.

  • 02 of 06

    Slide the Knife Around the Lip

    sliding knife around lid of oyster

    Holding the oyster firmly, slide the knife around the lip of the oyster until you reach the other side of the hinge. The oyster should remain level, so you don't lose the liquid inside. Keep the knife inserted about 1/2-inch with the tip pointed slightly up.

  • 03 of 06

    Open the Lid of the Oyster

    open oyster

    Keep the oyster level and pry the shell apart with your fingers. Before separating the shells completely, use the oyster knife to detach any muscle that still clings to the inside of the top shell. Remove the top shell.

  • 04 of 06

    Wipe Clean the Opened Oyster

    oyster wiped clean

    Carefully wipe away any grit that may be on the inside of the completely opened oyster.

    Never wash an oyster after it has been opened. This will definitely affect the flavor.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Loosen the Oyster

    loosen insides of oyster

    Use the oyster knife to detach the muscle underneath the oyster from the bottom shell. Be careful not to spill the liquid.

  • 06 of 06

    Oyster Presentation

    chilled oyster

    Place the opened oysters on a bed of crushed ice or refrigerate. Serve with lemon wedges or a mignonette sauce (1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 2 shallots finely chopped, 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper and 1/8 teaspoon salt).