Fresh oysters make for a wonderful seasonal dish when cleaned and prepared properly. What follows are directions on how to sort, clean and shuck oysters for use in cooking applications.
Sorting the Oysters
Begin by sorting through your oyster catch. Oyster shells should be closed tightly or only have a slight opening that is rectified by tapping onto the shell.
When you tap on a live oyster the shell should close quickly and remain that way.
An opened shell, or one that refuses to close once tapped on, indicates that the oyster is dead and it should therefore be discarded immediately.
Once the oysters have been sorted through, it is time to clean them up a bit.
Cleaning the Oysters
In order to remove all sand, scrub the oyster shells with a stiff bristled brush under cold, running water. Once the oyster shells have been thoroughly scrubbed, take out a fine colander and place it over a deep bowl.
Shucking the Oysters
Place the first oyster deep shell side down into the palm of your hand. Grab a sharp knife and holding the oyster over the colander, insert the tip of the knife into the center of the oyster’s hinge area.
While keeping the oyster over the colander, work the knife until the oyster opens. Allow the oyster juice to drain down through the colander and into the waiting bowl.
The amount of juice running from the oyster should be minimal and clear in color. An excess of juice that is cloudy or unusually colored could indicate a problem with the freshness of your oysters.
Once the oyster has been opened, look for the oyster’s two muscles. There should be one muscle on each side of the oyster. The two muscles are what connect the oyster to the shell.
Slide the sharp knife under each oyster muscle and cut them all the way through. Then work the knife under the oyster to remove it completely from the rest of the shell.
You will know that you have a fresh and healthy oyster if the meat appears creamy in color and plump in size.
Now that the oyster meat is free from the oyster shell, it can be used in cooking applications. The oyster juice, as long as it is clear in color and properly strained of any grit, can also be used in cooking applications such as the making for fish stock.
It should be noted that oysters are at their best from September through April. The least favored time to eat them tends to be after the oyster spanning season that takes place during the summer months.