Best Oyster Knife Review: Find The Right Killer And Shuck Like A Pro
It looks so easy, right?
The experts do it in the blink of an eye........
In goes the knife, a quick turn of the wrist, and off pops the shell, releasing the tasty treat inside.
Their secret....Practice and the best oyster knife for the job in their hands.
But I’ve got my own secret:
I suck at shucking and it's a job I don't enjoy all that much.
Despite plenty of practice and thousands of oysters opened, I just don't seem to get any better or more frustratingly quicker at it.
There's nothing more annoying than prodding and poking away at an oyster that won't seem to give an inch.
In fact, if you've got the wrong knife in your hand than opening oysters can seem like pulling teeth.
Shucking and eating oysters at home can save you a small fortune on the prices restaurants charge. But if you want an easy life and a pain free shucking experience than you'll need a sturdy oyster knife.
There's plenty to choose from, all different shapes, sizes, and blade designs. There's such an array on the market that you'll probably be left wondering which one to spend your money on.
Here's the good news:
Any oyster knife your lightly to buy will almost certainly open an oyster. It's just that some do a much better job than others. Some blade designs perform a lot better on certain types and sizes of oysters (more on this in a minute)
You’ll want a blade that lifts the shell easily and with as little fuss possible while keeping the oyster inside intact, especially if you plan serving them in the half shell.
But before we review some of the best oyster knifes on the market, you need to figure out which types of oysters your lightly to be shucking and then pick the right knife to open it.
Matching Blade Designs To Oysters - Which Knives Work Best
Below I've compiled a handy list to help you match the most common blade designs to each variety of oyster. Remember though, personal preference can play a part when it comes to the knife you like to shuck with.
A good rule to follow when picking a knife is that the bigger the oyster, than the bigger the knife you'll need.
Best Oyster Knife - The 5 Classic Designs
#1 The Small Frenchman
With a small 2 inch high carbon spade like blade that's sharp on both sides and a sturdy riveted handle this knife from Wusthof is made to last. It weighs in at 3.2 oz and has also got a guard on the hilt that offers some protection in case of a slip,
Best for: The native European oyster but will work OK on any type of small oyster
#2 The Boston Stabber
This Boston style knife comes in 2 sizes. You've got a choice of either a 3 or a 4 inch long blade. The handle is non-slip and made from Grip-Tex Polypropylene. At just 2.4 oz its light weight and easy to use.
Best for: Very versatile - opens any type and size of oyster. Really good on large Atlantic and Pacific's. While the 3' version is great with mid-sized oysters.
#3 The New Haven
The new haven is a classic design with an upturned tip that offers some extra leverage in the oyster hinge. The 2.75 inch blade is high carbon steel while the long ergonomic handle is slip resistant and comfortable to hold.
Best for: Good for small to medium sized Atlantic, Pacific, Kumamoto, and Olympia oysters. Especially if you need a clean half shell presentation.
#4 The Galveston
The Galveston is often the preferred knife used commercially by those who shuck for a living. It boasts a broad sturdy 4 inch blade that's sharp enough to cut the abductor of any oyster. Ultra light weight Sani-Safe handle and NSF certified.
Best for: Works for large Atlantic oysters and medium to large Europeans
#5 The Large Frenchman
This beautiful little knife is the bigger brother of number 1 above. The blade is stainless steel and 2.5 inches long. Its full tang with a sharp edge that runs into a point at the end making it easy to get at the hinge of most oysters.
Best for: Good for Kumamoto, European and Olympia as well as small Atlantic and Pacific's.
You can get a really good knife for less than $20, so you can probably afford to have more than one in your arsenal. After you’ve been shucking a while you’ll find a favourite that works for you, and that you’ll end up using most of the time.
Once you're familiar blade designs you just need to figure out which species of oysters you'll be shucking.
The Types Of Oyster Your lightly To Encounter
There is over 150 different varieties of oysters, but these fall under a total of just 5 different species, and the variety your most lightly to eat often depends on where in the world you live.
Don’t get confused by the different names people give oysters or that you see on restaurant menus. This just refers to the area or bay in which the oysters were raised. You might taste subtle differences but this is just down to the habitat and water where the oysters were grown
In Europe we’re more familiar with our belon or native European Oyster.
In Japan you might come across Kumamoto oyster’s, a breed I know only by reputation but have never seen in a fish market here in Ireland.
If you live on the east coast of America than you'll know the Atlantic oyster which is found as far north as canada all the way down to the gulf of mexico.
The smallest oyster of all is the Olympia which comes from the west coast of America and was once thought to be extinct. It's a species I’ve yet to taste and will have a hard time finding as its only farmed on a small scale in the pacific northwest.
The one oyster everybody knows is of course the pacific. Farmed globally because of its quick growth its by far the most common and economical for producer and consumer.
Once you know the 5 different types of Oyster it's time to match each one to a knife.
Different Oyster, different blade design
When you're choosing an oyster knife it's important to give a little thought to the variety of oyster your most lightly to shuck on a regular basis. Different blade designs were developed in different regions and work best on oysters indigenous to that area.
Like I said before any oyster knife your lightly to buy will open an oyster, but using the wrong knife on the wrong oyster is not without its problems.
Let me explain:
A French oyster knife works great on the native european oyster which is often opened from the side. Try opening a Kumamoto or an atlantic oyster by the hinge with it and you'll see it's pointy blade has trouble finding any purchase which often makes you apply more pressure and can cause the knife to smash through the shell into the meat.
French knives aren't great with larger pacific oyster either. Its pointy blade breaks off bits of the flakey shell which can end up on the meat.
And it gets worse:
because it's short and stubby sometimes it's difficult to reach and cut the abductor muscle causing you to stop and swap it out for another knife, slowing you down.
Another example is the new haven oyster knife that works great on large Atlantic and Pacific oysters but which has trouble wriggling into the hinge of a kumamoto or olympia.
While if you tried to use it on a European you'd find its upturned blade has trouble slipping between the shells.
The Oyster Knife Buyers Guide
Now that you’ve decided on a blade design there's still a couple more things to consider before you make a purchase.
If you're going to shuck anything more than a half dozen oysters at a time than comfort should be your main concern. Avoid any knife with straight edges and an irregular shape.
Look for something rounded, that moulds to the shape of your hand, and that's big enough for your thumb and fingers to curl around. I find plastic or rubber handled knives work best. Their easy to grip tightly and your hand won't slip. Wood is good too, but after a while moisture can soak in causing it to decay and smell a bit.
Steer clear of any knife handle with a slick surface. Damp hands could slip causing you an injury. More frustratingly it will take an age to open anything more than 2 or 3 oysters at a time as you'll be stopping constantly to dry your hands so you can grip the knife.
Oysters blades don't need to be sharp. The only thing you have to cut with it is the abductor muscle which is strong but cuts like soft butter. They do need to be tough, rugged, and durable enough to crack open thousands of oysters.
Look for a blade about 3 inches long made from corrosion resistant metal. Salt water from inside oysters can damage a knife over time. Ferritic stainless steel 440c is the material that works best and is used by reputable manufactures. Its expensive though, so it's unlikely you'll find it in a knife that costs 5 dollars.
High carbon steel is another material you see in a lot of oyster knifes, and it's not a bad choice. Harder than stainless steal but more prone to corrosion and rust, carbon made shuckers need a little more looking after.
If you want a knife that's made to last than buy a well known make or brand that you know you can trust (dexter russell, wusthof and victorinox are all good brands). Check that the blade you're buying is stainless or high carbon steel and not some cheap alloy that will bend and buckle with the first oyster that gives you trouble.
The knife guard
Personally I'm not a fan of knife guards. They just add unnecessary weight to the knife which you want to be as light as possible. Once your opening an oyster correctly and not using brute force than there's very little chance of serious injury.
Besides, a lot of the modern knife designs have a slight bulge in the handle just where it meets the blade. This gives quite a bit of protection to your hands in case of a slip. If you're really worried about an injury that you could always put on a mesh glove.
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Best Oyster Knife Reviews
5 Of The Best Shuckers - Our Top Picks
Dexter-Russell Boston Pattern Oyster Knife
The Boston stabber is a classic American design. Sleek, long and narrow its blade slowly comes to a point with a rounded tip that slips easily into the hinge of just about any oyster.
This dexter russell is one of the longest oyster knives around at 6.5', (4' blade and a 2.5' handle) The polypropylene made handle is easy to clean and there's a seal just where it meets the blade to prevent bacteria and bits of shell getting into the knife.
The dexter russell is an oyster killer of the highest caliber. Probably the most versatile shucker out there, its long pointed bland makes short work of any type of oyster you'll encounter. European, Atlantic, Pacific, kumamoto or olympia.
Victorinox New Haven Style Oyster Knife
Uniquely designed with a wide blade, dull edges, and an upturned tip that offers great leverage in the hinge of any oyster. Made by Victorinox the same guys that brought us the Swiss army knife they make the whole range of designs that you see here in these oyster knife reviews.
The feature I like most about the new haven it that it rides high in the oyster shell making it easy to cut the abductor muscle and very difficult to pierce the briny meat.
The knife itself is 6' long with a 2.75 inch blade. The large handle has a bulge at both ends which makes it easy to grip and gives good support. At 3 ounces in weight it feels sturdy and substantial in your hand.
Review Of The Wusthof Small French Oyster Knife
At just 2.5' long with a spade shaped blade that's sharp on both edges and quickly narrows to a tip this wusthof has got to be one of the smallest shuckers around.
Wusthof are a premium German manufacturer of kitchen cutlery. Most of their knives are full tang. This means the blade runs through the handle which is riveted on, so there's no weak point in the knife. They're a bit more expensive than other brands but are built to last. This knife is heavier than most but sturdy and substantial in your hand.
Great for opening any type of small to medium type of oyster and really comes into its own when you need cleanly shucked oysters for a half shell presentation.
Roger Orfevre French Oyster Knife
This slender attractive looking blade is the bigger brother of the small Frenchman knife above. Made from stainless steel it's sharp along one edge and at 2.9 ounces very light weight.
The knife itself is 6' long with a 2.5 inch blade which runs into the handle making it very strong. Its pointier and sharper than most of the other knives out there, making it easy to maneuver it into the hinge of most oysters.
Strong, stiff blade designed for opening europeans but works great on kumamoto, olympias, and small Atlantic and Pacific oysters
Review Of The Dexter Russell Galveston Oyster Shucker
Rugged and tough this broad bladed knife with a rounded tip is also known as the gulf or southern shucker. This particular galveston is a dexter russell like the boston stabber above. Sturdy and lightweight it boasts a stiff 4' blade that makes it easy to twist open the hinge of large oysters.
The plastic grip-tex handle is slip resistant and bulged at both ends giving great support and protection.
good for shucking large Atlantic oysters as well as medium to large Europeans and Pacifics
Some Other Oyster Tools Worth A Mention
Review Of The Oxo Good Grip Oyster Knife
Any best oyster knife review wouldn't be complete without the oxo good grip. It's one of the most popular oyster tools on the market because of it's affordability. There's a lot to like about the oxo too. Not least the handle which is a great shape, non slip and comfortable to hold.
The knife itself is quite sturdy at 3.2 ounces in weight. It's 7' long with a 3' blade with an upturned tip that's very similar to a new haven style shucker.
One of the most affordable oyster tools around and a good buy if you're only going to shuck occasionally at home. Only really designed for small oysters or for opening from the side. Not great at opening large oysters (Atlantic's / Pacific's) from the hinge.
Review Of The Swissmar Shucker Paddy Oyster Knife
You'll probably either love it or hate it but the shucker paddy is very much the new kid on the block when it comes to oyster knifes. Uniquely designed by a world champion shucker it comfortably sits in the hand like a pistol ensuring a tight grip.
Unlike traditional knives it works along a dual axis. Down the blade like a normal knife and also along the handle giving excellent leverage when opening via the hinge.
The blade is 3' long with a sharply notched tip that can easily access the hinge of any oyster. Especially those with a deep cup, where the hinge can be difficult to get at.
After the boston stabber this is probably one of the more versatile knives around and can tackle any variety and size of oyster via the hinge. Especially if you need clean oysters in the half shell.
Oysters: The One You Always Need To Remember
Any oysters you buy down the market should still be alive. Dead ones are a giveaway by the loose fitting shell and the bad smell.
Here's the deal:
Suspect dead oysters are dangerous to eat and should be thrown in the trash. Never risk one, you could make yourself, or worse someone you’ve invited around for dinner violently ill.
Oysters only start to die a couple of minutes after being shucked. it's because they're alive that they can be a tough nut to crack. Its best to serve your oysters right after you've opened them or at the very least within an hour or two.
Oysters have two shells a flat one on top and a more cupped one on the bottom. They're rounded at one end and taper down to a point at the other where the hinge is. Inside there's an abductor muscle that connects both shells keeping the oyster tightly closed.
The hinge must be broken and the abductor muscle stretched and cut so you can get at the sweet tasting meat inside. The bigger the oyster the stronger the hinge and abductor muscle become. So if you're looking for some easy prey go for smaller oysters, they tend to taste better too.
How To Open Oysters The Easy Way
I won’t to go into too much detail on how you open an oyster. You've seen it being done and there's lots of great resources online where you can learn like the video below.
There's more than one way to open an oyster, you can either do it from the side or via the hinge, like in the video, which I like to call the easy way.
I prefer the hinge method because the shell remains undamaged which is important if you plan on serving your oysters in the half shell. You'll also find less shrapnel from the shell ends up on the oyster meat. The other benefit is that you're holding the oyster tightly, not moving it around, and are less lightly to spill the precious liquor inside.
To open via this classic method the tip of your knife needs to be thin enough to wiggle into the hinge and once you find some purchase strong enough to force the force the oyster open. Try to be gentle. Too much force and the hinge could buckle unexpectedly and your knife will plunge into the tender meat inside.
Tackling oysters from the side should really be left to the pros and the more experienced shuckers out there. It's a method I tried hard to learn without much success. I always found it difficult to find the sweet spot between the two shells next to the abductor muscle.
Opening oysters from the side will probably result in shell damage for inexperienced shuckers, ruining a half shell presentation. Shell splinters seem to almost always end up on the meat too.
It's a method that works best with the more rounded, flatter, native european oyster where it's easier to see where the two shells meet. It's a lot more difficult with the more common pacific oyster. The wavy ruffles on the side of its shell make it hard to know where to position your knife.
If you're going to cook your oysters and a half shell presentation doesn't matter than feel free to practice the side opening method.
When your new to shucking it's tough to pick a good knife from the hundreds out there. Hopefully this guide has given you a better idea of what to look for and you'll be able to find a reliable blade to suit your needs no matter what type of oyster you plan on eating.
Personally, if I was been sent to a desert island and could only bring one knife I'd have a tough time deciding between my boston stabber for its versatility and a new haven.....I love a cleanly shucked oyster in a half shell.
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