Cooking Louisiana  -  Shucking Oysters the Old Way
OystersShucking oysters in South Louisiana is not uncommon, but, one old way of shucking them is. My grandfather was an oyster shucker in New Orleans years ago and back then he made his own knives similar to the one shown below. My father made that one.

Today's popular shucking method is called prying or popping. The oyster is opened from the back or hinge area. This is possible because today the knife blades are made of really hard metals and can't be snapped in two like the old blades. The old blades were thin and brittle and were designed for cutting the knot of the oyster.

Old Time Handmade Oyster KnifeThe knife handle was formed to accommodate not only your hand, but fashioned in a way that would allow the shucker to pick up a small hammer while still holding the knife. Being able to shuck oysters in this manner sped up the process. This was important because the shucker was paid on his volume of oysters shucked.

Old Time Handmade Oyster KnifeThe knife blade was made in sort of a curve wherein the cutting edge was at the top of the knife (shown in red on the "front view").

Shucking OystersThe shucking process starts by creating an entry point for the knife tip with the hammer. Note: the hammer shown here is bigger than the ones used, and, they had two square heads. What is shown here is a regular ball pein hammer.

Notice I am holding the oyster knife while using the hammer. The square head hammers' handle was a bit smaller and easier to handle.

What is being done in this picture is a few blows will be aimed at the tip end of the oyster to allow access for the knife.

Shucking OystersNext the hammer is set aside and the knife is slid into the oyster with a slight upward tip angle. Upon entry the objective is to cut the knot away from the top shell. This is done in a sweeping motion and the knot is cut easily because the cutting edge of the oyster knife is at the top of the blade.

Once the knot is cut the oyster has no power to hold its shell tightly closed.

The knife is then turned to the side as shown here to open it.

Shucking OystersWhile a firm hold is had on the bottom shell the knife tip is set on the bottom shell away from the oyster then the top shell is pried up and away. This is the only prying this knife will do and, since the shells are easy to separate, no damage is done to the knife.

Shucking OystersThe top shell is discarded and the knife now cuts the knot on the bottom shell is sort of a scooping motion.

Shucking OystersFinally the oyster freed and ready to pop in your mouth.

The entire process is designed to maintain minimal knife-to-oyster contact.

Now, if you use the prying method, you can still use the knot cutting technique discussed here.

Shucking OystersThis is the common prying knife discussed above and the kind most popular in South Louisiana.

Here is another knife I found to work very well... OXO Oyster Knife.