Oysters 101


What you need to know for shucking oysters at home
Oysters are one of those decadent bites we tend to save for ‘raw’ bars, but learning a few simple things can make it a sensuous snack at home. These tasty live morsels from the sea can be a tad tricky for the novice, so it’s best to have the right tools in the kitchen.  World champion oyster shucker Patrick McMurray, owner of Pearl Diver Restaurant and The Ceilli Cottage in Toronto, says, “You need an oyster knife, a good cloth to protect your hands, and a tray to keep things neat. I have my own, the ShuckerPaddy, by Swissmar ($20).”

Patrick’s oyster shucking tips
– Shuck oysters in a pie pan or on a baking sheet, to keep the shells and wetness contained.
– Put a wet cloth under the baking sheet for non-slip safety.
– Place the oyster hinge (the pointy part of the teardrop-shaped shell) towards your knife hand.
– Cover oyster with a second damp, folded cloth so you only see the hinge.
– Slide the tip of the oyster knife into the natural opening at the hinge, and gently turn the knife back and forth, like turning a key in a lock, until the tip wedges into the shell.
– Once there, a gentle 1/4 turn will pop the shell.
– Pry the top shell up to expose where the meat is attached to the top shell.
– Scrape to release the shell. Remove any particles or grit.
– Turn the oyster 180° and scrape under the “adductor muscle” (the circular button in the oyster) to release from the bottom shell.
– Enjoy!

While many oyster lovers like them au naturel, you can satisfy that briny bivalve desire with a zesty squirt of lemon, freshly grated horseradish or an array of hot sauces. The classic mignonette sauce is easy to make and it brings out the best of bivalve flavour.

Classic Mignonette

– 1/4 c. of good quality red wine vinegar
– 1 tbsp. minced shallot
– 1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper


Stir ingredients together in a small bowl, and drizzle over shucked oysters.

One way to enhance the oyster is to match the mignonette ingredients to a wine you plan to drink with them. The exotic aroma of truffle deserves a fuller flavoured pink sparkling wine.
Truffle Mignonette*

– 1.5 c. finely diced shallots
– 2.5 tbsp. soy sauce
– 4 tbsp. truffle oil
– 4 tbsp. grape seed oil
– 1.5 tbsp. sherry vinegar
– 2 green onions, finely sliced
– 2 Anaheim chillies, seeded and diced

Mix soy and shallots and let macerate for 2 hours at room temp, mixing periodically. Drain off excess liquid. Mix with all other ingredients. Adjust flavour with soy to taste, if needed.

*Recipe courtesy of Geoff Hopgood of Hopgood’s Foodliner, Toronto.

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