Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >
Dec 2, 2008 06:04 PM

Oyster Holder

Does anyone have experience using an oyster holder like this one? My husband needs to shuck 200 oysters on Christmas day. He's shucked fresh oysters once before and had a really hard time opening them with just an oyster knife and glove. I'm also planning to buy him a Dexter-Russell 2 3/4" oyster knife, since that's the one Cooks Illustrated highly recommends for shucking oysters.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Never tried one, but it actually looks less stable than holding the oyster against a countertop with a glove or a thick piece of leather. And once you get the blade into an oyster you can't fully open the shell and remove the meat while it's in that thing anyway.

    Having the right knife is way more important than some gimmick to hold the oyster, and "right" comes down to personal preference (although there are some really bad knives out there). Dexter Russell makes several good oyster knives in the 3-inch range. I prefer the more tapered "Providence" vs the stubbier "New Haven" or "Boston". Easier to get into smaller oysters, but still gives enough leverage to open the big ones.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Zeldog

      Zeldong. thanks for sharing your thoughts. We took my parents to Hog Island Oyster Farm in Tomales Bay two years ago and the four of us went through a bag of 100 fresh oysters. My husband really struggled to open the oysters (his first time) wearing a heavy glove and an oyster knife that we bought on-site.

      This time, I thought I'd research the web and look for tools to help him out since there will be 8 of us at Christmas dinner and we're planning to take 200 oysters and a bunch of fresh Dunganess crabs from the Bay Area to my family in Southern California.

      In addition to the tool from Sur la Table, I found this one at The reviews seem pretty positive, but I thougt the one from Sur la Table offered more flexibility.

      1. re: cvhound

        Actually, that one makes a bit more sense. Easy to clean, at least, and if your knife does slip, the plastic probably offers more protection than a towel. Haagendazs is right about technique, but learning by trial and error can be painful. I have 3 learning experiences (small scars) on my left hand to prove it.

        Many of Hog Island's best oysters are on the small side (be sure to get some Kumamotos!), so for sure you want to use one of the smaller Dexter Russell knives.

        1. re: Zeldog

          There are mistakes that can happen but in my opinion stabbing yourself with an oyster knife is kind of like poking yourself in the eye with a fork. It can very easily be avoided. Remember, we're not pushing with all our might when we open these things. I hardly use any pressure at all. Just twist. The only reason I use a towel is because of the moisture and mud and the potential of getting cut by the shell, not the knife. There's not much reason for getting cut unless you are really careless and using way too much force. Again, I'm not Mr. Perfect, mistakes happen, but in my opinion they are rare. Oysters are pretty darn cheap when you price them out one-by-one so if you really can't get one open, just toss it aside. It's better than ripping your hand open by trying to jab an oyster open.

    2. I can almost guarantee that this item is useless. All you need is a knife and a towel, no gimmics. You husband might use it for one or 2 oysters and then realize that it was a silly waste of money. I wouldn't suggest using a glove either, I like an old towel, but that is my preference. Why? I like a lot of old towels actually. Gloves will get wet and then get slippery and that makes your hands all dirty and smelly... when a towel gets wet and dirty, you just grab a fresh new one. You can also wipe off the knife on your towel. Once a leather gloves gets wet and oyster-y, you can't really wipe your knife off on your glove. Well, you could but you're then smearing dirty, sandy, old oyster juices all over the blade... and then you're off to shucking more oysters - and people eat them. After you've essentially wiped off your dirty oyster knife on inside of the person's oyster.

      I suggest that your husband go to a restaurant or something and ask if they can teach him a few tricks about oyster shucking. For me, there's no real danger slipping and stabbing myself because you shouldn't be using pressure in that way. To open an oyster there is more twisting involved than there is pushing. Pushing is bad = bloody hands & oysters!

      Your Cooks Illustrated knife choice is good (I've got one very similar to it. Compare it to the one that comes with that wooden set. It's got a wooden handle and a cheap, sharp, pointy blade. That's just asking for loads of trouble and a trip to the emergency room for stiches. The last thing you want is a cheap oyster knife because you're just throwing away your money. The cheap ones bend and break and they aren't worth the $$$. I would suggest buying 2 or even 3 knives. That way you have an extra in the very rare event that the first one breaks or bends, and also if someone else comes along and wants to help, they have a nice knife to work with as well.

      Oh, and it's spelled "Dungeness" crab, from the Dungeness spit on the Washington coast.

      6 Replies
      1. re: HaagenDazs

        Thanks for the tips on using towels versus wearing gloves. That actually makes a lot of sense!!! I was planning to orde 2-3 knives for the exact reasons you mentioned.

        My dad tried to help open them last time, but my mom made him stop after watching him struggle, so maybe I'll give it a try this time. My sisters won't want to handle them and my nephews are young teenagers, so no way do we want them anywhere near a knife.

        Thanks for the trivia lesson on the origin of their name. I'd never heard that before!

        1. re: cvhound

          Well, that's kind of the thing - these aren't really knives. These are "knives" as much as a mail opener is. The only slightly dangerous part of an oyster knife is the point and, in fact I've seen many a fancy mail opener that is far sharper than an oyster knife. Think of it this way, people often use a flat head screwdriver to open oysters. The key here is to not slice at or try to push the point between the 2 halves of the oyster shell. That's precisely how people cut themselves (anything can be sharp if you're jabbing it at your hand). You want to get the tip of the knife as near to the hinge as possible and then twist, do not push. You're trying to lift the 2 halves of the shell apart and pop the abductor muscle (that tough, circular, white part about the size of a pencil eraser). It's only after you get the shell opened slightly that you can slide the knife into the open space and completely sever the abductor muscle and scrape & release the oyster from it's shell.

          13 and 14 year olds are plenty capable of handling a kitchen knife, and if they aren't familiar, now is a great time to teach them under supervision. They know (or should know better) that knives aren't play toys anyway - they aren't 4 year olds anymore! ;-) In any case, if you can trust these kids with a flat head screwdriver, you can trust them with an oyster knife. This is a good skill for them to learn and they are far more likely to get hurt by a random stick that they pick up in the yard than an oyster knife used for the correct purpose.

          Perhaps there is some potential damage to engaging the teenagers though... Are they boys or girls? Girls are likely to be more squeamish but they may be scarred forever at the thought of eating a slimy, raw, sea creature! Ha!

          1. re: HaagenDazs

            oh no maybe I should stop letting my four year old open oysters with the oyster knife....seriously it is pretty common to see youngsters that are able to correctly use oyster knives in my coastal area.

            1. re: HaagenDazs

              Hmmm, maybe this will be a good way to keep my two nephews occupied with something to do before dinner. I'll show my sister this thread. Thanks for all the great tips and encouragement!

              BTW, we had dinner at Zuni tonight and sat at the table right above the oyster station. Sure enough, the guy used a towel to hold the oysters and a large (looked much longer than the 2 3/4" blade) Dexter-Russell knife! I watched him open a dozen oysters so hopefully all of this great info will sink in so I can help my husband open the oysters! :-)

              1. re: cvhound

                Good idea... let's say your nephews are about 14 years old. They'll be driving in 2 years and they'll be leaving for college in 4 years. NOW is the time to teach them how to cook!

                1. re: HaagenDazs

                  They're actually 11 and 13, but you're post made me stop and think, WOW, that's so true!!! (i.e., about driving and college). We only see them once a year, so it's hard for me to think of them as anything other than my "baby" nephews. Thanks for helping me see them in a whole new light... Maybe that's why my mom still asks me what I ate that day every time we speak on the phone, lol. ;-)

        2. There's always the Julia Child method. She used a can opener - one of those pointed ones from days past for drinking or pouring. She would dig the point in at the rear point (the hinge) of the oyster and leverage it to pop open the shell. You still need a knife to slice around and to release the bottom, but the can opener does the hard work of popping it open.