Over the past year many home cooks have been inspired to push the boundaries of their comfort zones in the kitchen. The pandemic has limited resources for many home cooks and has brought out the creative side of many chefs. When it comes to being resourceful there are a few notable exceptions, though, when lack of expertise or equipment makes a dish too daunting—think sushi, perfectly crispy French fries, and oysters. Now sushi and French fries are commonly ordered as take out, but oysters can be trickier to enjoy at home. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try them. There are actually easy ways, while also somewhat unorthodox, to open oysters that don’t involve shucking them with an oyster knife.
For the uninitiated, oyster shucking actually takes practice, as well as safety gloves, but it’s not the only way of opening the shell. Really the only thing that keeps the shell shut is the oyster’s adductor muscle as it clenches to keep the shell shut. As soon as the oyster is no longer alive, it lets go of the shell.
Once the shell is open, you can more easily, and with less fear of accidentally losing a finger, cut them out.
Here are a few simple methods for safely opening oysters at home:
1. Freeze Method
Freezing and thawing is the easiest hands-off method of opening oysters. So you can just stick the oysters in the freezer, and then let them thoroughly freeze, before moving them into the refrigerator. As they start to thaw down, they’ll pop up, and then you’re good to go. The nice thing about it is, once you put them in the refrigerator, the texture will come back, and it’s not going to change the flavor profile.
Any type of heat—from boiling, steaming, even microwaving—will kill the oyster and release its shell, but the preferred method is the grill. Grilling them allows you to get a lot more flavor than steaming or boiling.
Now if you are wanting to get a little fancy you can shuck and stuff the oysters before returning them to their shell and putting them on the grill. If this is too advanced or you don’t have time then you can easily skip this step. You can just as easily put the oysters on the grill, they’ll pop open, and then you can add whatever you want onto them. A few suggestions: fresh spinach and cheese, a simple garlic butter, or barbecue sauce.
While this might upset some purists you can actually cook your oysters in the microwave if you are in a pinch. This should really only be used in emergent situations like if you’ve got people coming over in five minutes and forget to grill the oysters.
For this method you will need to arrange the oysters onto a plate, cupped side down, and then microwave them for less than a minute. They should pop open and be ready to serve—preferably on a plate with ice, as if you spent hours adeptly shucking each.