Learn how to shuck oysters at home to create this dreamy half dozen raw oysters on a plate of ice with cocktail sauce, mignonette, and horseradish.
Written by Emily Storrow | Photography by Jonathan Boncek

Learn how to shuck oysters like a raw bar pro in five easy steps

In the words of M.F.K. Fisher, “An oyster leads a dreadful but exciting life.” But where that life is led means everything. Raw bars astound with countless varieties, each with distinct flavor, yet there are only five kinds of oysters harvested in the US. The differences come from geography, how they’re raised, and the water they constantly filter. For instance, Alabama’s Isle Dauphine oyster and the smaller Chunu variety from Virginia are the same species, but the former has a salty, rich profile while the latter’s environment produces something milder and clean-tasting.

Regardless of type, oysters taste best when you’ve shucked your own. When it comes to opening one, keep a few things in mind. Always use protection: A glove or towel will keep your oyster-holding hand safe from the knife. Muscles attach the animal to both its shells—one is flat and one has a belly, which holds the oyster and its liquor. You’ll need to sever both of these muscles, sometimes a tricky task while simultaneously balancing the bivalve to prevent spilling. And remember, if you aren’t eating oysters immediately after shucking, store them in their juice in a clean bowl and use within twenty-four hours.

Shop local Virginia oysters from the Local Palate Marketplace.

A Step-by-Step Guide for How to Shuck Oysters

Oysters x

Step 1

Check Oysters

Sift through your oysters and discard of any that smell fishy, sound hollow when tapped with an oyster knife, or are open.

Oysters x

Step 2

Wash Up

Using steel wool, thoroughly scrub oysters on both sides under running water to get rid of any dirt, mud, or sand from under the outer shell.

Oysters x

Step 3

Knife in Hinge

Protecting your hand with a towel or glove, place oyster belly face down and insert flat side of knife into hinge and wiggle as far as it will go.

Oysters x

Step 4


Twist the knife with force, using leverage to pry the shell open. Wipe the blade clean, then sever the top muscle by sliding the blade against the shell.

Oysters x

Step 5

Sever and Flip

Discard the top shell. Holding oyster parallel to table so the liquor doesn’t spill out, sever muscle from bottom shell. Gently push oyster around or flip it over to ensure it’s free.

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