The Clever Method
With the cupped portion of the oyster facing down and its "beak" facing towards the opener, the entry can be made on the right, front, or left side of the oyster between the shell halves. This can be performed in three ways. The first method calls for chipping away some shell at the edge on the right side, producing a small opening, then entering with the oyster knife and cutting the adductor muscle. A demonstration of this method (see below) with one oyster type is sufficient, as every type of culinary oyster can be opened the same way. The second method is called "stabbing", a professional variant of the above method. With the tip of the oyster knife, an experienced opener gains direct front or side entry between the shell halves. The blade is then slid in to cut the muscle. The third method is a European variant of direct side entry on a European oyster with the sharp blade of an oyster knife (briefly described towards the end of this page).
Please note: Novices will benefit from reading the introduction page first before reading this or any of the other reports on opening oysters. Click here to go there.
Chipping Side Entry Method
The opening process begins with placing
the oyster on the cutting board and picking the spot on the edge
of the shell considered closest to the suspected location of
the adductor muscle inside. When the "beak" of the
oyster is pointing towards the opener and the cupped part of
the oyster is sitting on the cutting board, the entry point will
always be on the right side of the oyster in the upper quadrant
of the shell.
The opener then holds the oyster down firmly with his gloved hand and starts chipping away at the shell edge by operating his knife vertically in a gentle stabbing manner. He (or she) will continue to do so until an opening between the shell halves leading into the oyster has been achieved. The ultimate hole should be no larger than the width of the blade.
The adductor muscle is located in close proximity to the hole on the shell edge. It is severed with the gentle back and forth action of the blade.
Once the adductor muscle has been severed, the game
is over. All that is left is to bend the top shell back towards
the point of the oyster and snap its last defense, the hinge.
Note: The oyster I used in this demonstration looks like it's been through hell. The mantle edges of the meat are starting to stick to the edge of the shell and the flesh appears sunken instead of plump. Although the oyster is still (barely) alive, it has lost much of its moisture due to either having been stored too long at the seafood market, or having been stored improperly in transit to or at the seafood market (i.e. cupped shell portion was stored side-ways or up instead of down).
Stabbing Side or Front Entry Method
* Side-Knife Method
The gloved right hand brings the blade point to the desired entry point between the shells on the right side of the oyster, usually somewhere at the midway point between the beak and "the front" or bill now facing the opener. The opener has optimal control of the knife point while wriggling it between the shell halves.
Once the opener feels that he has gained some entry, his right thumb shifts on top of the oyster shell and he proceeds to slide the blade in and across along the underside of the top shell. With the beak of the oyster facing away, the adductor muscle inside is located over on the left side. Once the blade is within reach of the adductor muscle, the adductor is severed with a gentle back and forth motion of the blade. The right thumb still stays on the top shell at that point.
The right thumb on the top shell now joins the flat side of the blade inside the oyster like a pincer. In one motion, the top shell can now be flipped up and back and be pried off easily at the hinge.
The professional opener will then inspect the oyster and remove any shell chips that may have snuck in during opening. From the left he will then gently slide the tip of his knife under the oyster's flesh and cut the lower part of the adductor muscle close to the (remaining cupped) shell. The oyster is now ready to be served on the half shell.
Cutting Side Entry Method
Health advisory: There is a risk associated with consuming raw oysters or any raw animal protein. If you have chronic illness of the liver, stomach, or blood or have immune disorders, you are at greatest risk of illness from raw oysters and should eat oysters fully cooked. If you are unsure of your risk, you should consult your physician.
Advisements on any errors discovered are most welcome: Contact