River Cottage Australia

How to Shuck Oysters

Paul West shows us how to enjoy an oyster that is freshly shucked from the shell.

Oysters are one of the oceans most prized delicacies and Australians consume tonnes of them every year.

Most people will tell you that the best way to enjoy an oyster is freshly shucked from the shell, and River Cottage Australia’s Paul West shows you how it’s done.


  • Oyster Shucker – these are short bladed, blunt knives used to pry the shell open. They can be purchased from fish mongers, knife stores and specialty homewares stores and commercial kitchen supplies stores.
  • Chopping board and a damp tea towel – place a damp tea towel underneath the board to prevent slipping as you’ll be placing considerable downward force when shucking the oysters.
  • A second tea-towel – to grip the oyster and to protect your hands and fingers in case the oyster shucker slips during shucking.
  • A bowl for the discarded flat shells.
  • A plate to serve the shucked oysters.


  • Fold your tea-towel in half lengthways and then fold that again in half lengthways. Then fold it in half again by bringing one end up to meet the other end and place it flat down on the board in front of you so that the folded end is on your left.
  • Place the oyster a couple of inches inside the right side edge of the tea-towel with the pointed end facing your right hand and the flat part of the shell facing upwards. Then fold the left hand side of the tea-towel over the oyster.
  • Place your left hand on top of the left end of the tea-towel so that you can feel the oyster underneath it and then fold it back over the top of your left hand to protect it in case the shucker slips.


  • Holding the oyster down with your left hand (now protected by the tea-towel), take the shucker in your right hand and with the point of it, place firmly into the pointed end of the shell where there is a small gap between the cupped part of the shell (on the bottom) and the flat part of the shell (facing upwards).
  • Gently but firmly rock the point of the shucker back and forth until each part of the shell starts to come apart at the joint and the blade of the shucker is inserted into the oyster.
  • Using the full blade, lever across the oyster towards your left hand to pry apart the top flat part of the shell from the bottom cupped part of the shell until it comes off completely. Discard the lid.
  • Find where the oyster is attached to the shell and with the flat part of the blade cut the oyster away, making sure not to damage the oyster.
  • Turn the oyster over on the shell and try not to spill or lose any of the natural juice; there is so much flavour in it.


  • Repeat the process with the remaining oysters, after a few you’ll really start to get the hang of it.
  • Arrange the oysters on a plate and drizzle with a little freshly squeezed lemon juice or just serve as they are.
  • There are many dipping sauces you can accompany with the oysters, the internet is a great source of ideas..
  • There are only two main species of food Oysters: Ostreinae and Crassostreinae, or put more simply, flat and cupped. This distinction however, can get confused as oyster shells are generally shaped by the surface on which they grow.
  • Australia has three main Oysters, two ‘cupped’ – Sydney Rock oysters and Pacific oysters and one ‘flat’ native oyster.
  • Sydney Rock oysters (Saccostrea glomerata) are native to Australia and sometimes called western rock Oysters if farmed in Albany, Western Australia. They can be distinguished from Pacifics by their triangular-shaped, smoother shells and the pale edge (mantle) of their actual meat. They are generally also smaller (6-8cm), and milder tasting, than Pacifics.
  • Pacific Oysters (Crassostrea gigas), also called Coffin Bay or Japanese Oysters, were introduced to Tasmania from their native Japan in the 1940s and are now also grown in South Australia and in NSW in Port Stephens, Hawkesbury River and Georges River.
  • Native Oysters (Ostrea angasi), also called angasi, mud, or Port Lincoln Oysters, are a flat Oyster endemic to southern Australia but now quite scarce. They have recently had resurgence of popularity, especially on top restaurant menus, and are grown on the southern coast of NSW around Bermagui and Merimbula. As a flat Oyster, they have quite a different flavour and texture to Pacifics and Rocks.

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