Oyster Shucking Gloves: The Pros Wear them [and you should too]
Oyster shucking gloves aren't a fashion accessory and you won't look cool in them.....
But putting on some is the only real way to protect yourself while doing one of the more dangerous kitchen chores.
Honing your shucking technique, using a towel, and matching the right knife to the type of oyster your opening can all help you shuck more safely and drastically reduce the risk of injury.
But here's the thing:
99 times out of 100 you’ll pop the shell easily. Every now and again though you'll come across a stubborn oyster.
Maybe it’s got a particularly strong abductor muscle....
Or a deep cup where and the hinge is hard to get at. You apply too much pressure, the knife slips, and you end up with a nasty gash.
Compared to other knives, oyster blades aren't all that sharp, but they're still capable of doing some serious damage especially if you're just learning to shuck.
Some designs like the boston stabber and the Frenchman are really pointy and can leave you with a very deep stab wound if the knife slips. Evan the pros wear some sort of shucking glove, guys who been doing it all their lives, and who shuck at intense speeds.
But not for the reason you might think......
For the experts it's more about keeping their hands dry and being able to tightly grip the oyster in one hand while the other works its magic.
Plus, the pros don’t shuck on a table but in hand. So thier really protecting themselves from the sharp edges of the oyster rather than from the knife.
There's some hardcore schuckers who like to do it bare handed or just wearing some latex gloves for grip. And I don't recommend either method.
I only shuck occasionally and for years I got away without wearing a glove. One day while trying to open a pacific oyster with a french knife (not a good knife / oyster combo by the way) I had a little accident
The knife slipped and slammed into the back of my hand right between the thumb and fore finger costing me a little trip to the e.r., a few stitches, and some wounded pride.......... I’ve still got a scare to prove it.
So safety first. Get yourself some gloves.
The most expensive ones aren't necessarily the best oyster shucking gloves on the market. There's a few factors to consider before you buy.
So, Heres what youll learn...
What the best shucking gloves are made of - finding the right level of protection
Shucking gloves are made with a few different materials. There's plenty of options to choose from. All are different strengths and offer different levels of protection. The best advice is that the more inexperienced you are than the stronger glove you'll need. Though comfort should also be a consideration.
Most gloves are made from rubber, kevlar, chainmail, Polyethylene, or plain old cloth (more on all these later)
Below you'll find a handy table where you can quickly compare the look, style, and feel of the different materials used to make shucking gloves.
Level 5 Gloves
304l Stainless steel
One size fits all
XXS to XL
One size fits all
XXS to XL
S to XL
Occasionally a company selling work gloves throws 'oyster shucking' into its list of uses, Without giving it much thought. So whatever material they're made from make sure it's food safe.
Rubber Shucking gloves
The best thing about rubber shucking gloves is the amount of grip they give. The downside is that many don't offer all that much protection. It really depends on the thickness of the rubber so check if their marketed as cut or stab resistant.
Any that aren't lined with some sort of fabric can be a bit uncomfortable after a while. A lot are sold as a one size fits all which definitely won't be the case. So make sure you can get them in your size. Rubber gloves are really easy to clean by just rinsing off in some warm water.
Brand new rubber shuckers can be a bit inflexible when their new depending on how thick they are.. After a little use they soften up and aren't a bad choice if you only shuck occasionally.
Kevlar oyster gloves
Before you ask, no, your gloves won't be bulletproof. But it is the same high tensile plastic used in the vests, and as it turns out, it's not a bad material for a shucking glove.
Kevlar is everywhere these days. Thick kevlar gloves are worn by firefighters, racing drivers, and the police in tactical situations. These types of gloves are a no no for shuckers however, they just aren't flexible enough
For kitchen use the kevlar is much thinner, mixed with other materials, and sometimes coated with latex or a thin layer of rubber. Which as we know is great for shucking oysters.
Kevlar gloves are great for protection against cuts. But in some gloves the kevlar isn't thick enough to offer enough protection against a violent stabbing action.
Cleaning knit Kevlar can be tricky. A DuPont fact sheet reports a test done where significant loss of strength is not noted up to 10 washes. The test doesn't go beyond this.
Kevlar weakens severely when it comes into contact with bleach. This does not bode a long lifespan for a glove used in kitchens. If you shuck fairly regularly kevlar gloves probably offer just enough protection.
Chainmail Oyster Gloves
I known I said oyster gloves aren't cool, but I reckon a chainmail glove looks kinda badass.
Normally made from stainless steel, chainmail gloves offer the best stab protection out of all the materials used to make shucking gloves. With two big caveats.....
Firstly, the steel has got to be strong. Secondly, it's gotta be really tightly woven together so there's no gaps where a pointy oyster knife could poke through. All though they look uncomfortable to wear once you've got the right size their surprisingly lightweight, snug and flexible.
They're not waterproof though and if you're shucking large quantities your hands will get damp but this doesn't affect the grip of the gloves.
Cleaning chainmail is also a breeze. All you need is a brush and some soapy water. After a bit of use they'll lose their shine but you can make them sparkle again by rubbing on a paste made with water and baking soda.
Make sure you dry your chainmail gloves thoroughly after a shucking session by hanging them up and letting the air at them. Their quite expensive and the last thing you'll want is a ruined rusty glove.
Cloth Shucking Gloves
Cotton, leather, or a mixture of both are the fabrics i've most commonly seen in cloth shucking gloves.
Lot’s of cloth gloves come lined with Kevlar or steel mesh and sometimes the palms and the back of the hands are coated in rubber or latex (great for grip)
The level of protection they offer really depends on the thickness of the padding and exactly where it is on the glove. So you'll need to do a little research before you buy.
If your quite an experienced shucker and comfort is your main concern than cloth gloves are a good option The downside to cloth gloves is that they can get a bit smelly after a couple of uses so you'll need to wash them regularly.
Polyethylene shucking gloves
Polyethylene is a type of plastic used to make everything from packaging to milk cartons to garbage bins. In Its densest form it can be spun into a thread stronger than steel and is used to make bullet proof vests.
Polyethylene gloves are normally mixed with a material like polyester or spandex to give some flexibility. They're also quite durable, machine washable, and affordable. You can expect to pay around $15 to $20 for a pair
Normally marketed as a glove for general kitchen protection, they work quite well as a shucking glove, offering a decent level of protection and comfort if you shuck on a weekly basis.
Level 5 Cut Protection - Why you shouldn't worry about it When It Comes To Opening Oysters
Level 5 cut protection is a phrase you'll see used a lot when it comes to the best oyster shucking gloves.
Lots of manufactures put cut resistance on their list of features even though there's some confusion about what it is and how it's measured. America and Europe both have different standards and measure it differently.
So, let me explain.
Basicily testing cut resistance works something like this. Different weights are put on a blade and they record the distance it travels before cutting through the material.
As you well know this is a highly unlikely scenario when shucking oysters. We’re more concerned with is the knife poking through the knit of the glove and piercing the skin, and this can happen without the knife ever actually cutting the fabric of the glove.
A glove with a high cut resistance level will do absolutely nothing to stop this. When it comes to shucking gloves you should be far more concerned with the density, knit, and gauge of the glove. it's more lightly to protect you from a stab wound if the knife slipes.
Don’t get me wrong, cut resistance is still a nice feature to have in a glove and means you could use them for other things. Think slicing on a mandolin, using a grater, or while prepping meat or fish.
You could evan get your kids to stick on a pair and let them help you in the kitchen safe in the knowledge that they won't cut the hands off themselves. But when it comes to shucking oysters cut resistance levels should be well down your list of priorities.
Shucking gloves - why size matters and how to find a pair that fit
At the risk of stating the obvious make sure you buy a glove that fits. Anything too tight will make it uncomfortable to shuck for any length of time. While if their too big you'll find if frustrating difficult to grip the oyster properly.
A snugly fitting glove gives you more control and confidence when faced with a pile of oysters that need opening.
Like all gloves, most oyster shucking gloves tend to come in the regular sizes. Extra small, small, medium, large, and extra large.
Not sure what size? Heres how to find out.
Simply measure your hand with a tape at its widest point just below the knuckles. Than match it to the sizing chart below to get your size.
Or for those of us in Europe on the metric system
13 to 14 cm
14 to 16.5 cm
16.5 to 19 cm
19 to 21.5 cm
21.5 to 24 cm
24 to 27 cm
All though most shucking gloves are sold in pairs you’ll only be wearing one on your non dominant hand. The one holding the oyster.
Some specialized shucking gloves are sold singly and are reversible. Meaning you can turn them inside out and wear them on either the left or right hand.
Its best to keep the hand holding the knife glove free as it makes it easier to grip and control the blade. Once you've got your technique down your shucking hand is at a low risk of injury any way.
Some knives have a guard while other designs have a slight bulge on the handle just before the blade that offers quite a bit of protection to the hand holding the knife,
Besides, some materials used to make gloves don't match well to knife handles and can make them difficult to grip. Cloth and chain mail gloves are a good example. They can easily slip on a handle made of wood or plastic.
One last feature I like to look for in a glove is an adjustable strap that you can tighten around the wrist. This fixes the glove to your hand making them a lot more comfortable and prevents any water getting in and causing an irritation.
Best shucking glove reviews
Now that we know what we're after its time to find some gloves.
Below are some of the best gloves you'll find. Each made from a different material and at a different price point, So you should be able to find something that's in your budget and that offers the type of protection you require
Let's take a look.......
San Jamar 1000 Rubber Oyster Shucking Glove
The San Jamar Oyster glove is made of thick Latex Rubber, textured for grip, and cotton lined. It comes in only one size and may not fit exceptionally large or small hands.
Sold as a single glove it’s a good choice if you are working under wet circumstances. San jamar's offer good flexibility for a rubber glove and the inner cotton lining means their comfortable to wear
These gloves only come up to the wrist, so people with larger hands may find that water or juices leak into the glove. Cleaning the cotton lining can be difficult.
San Jamar's are cold resistant and good for picking oysters as well as shucking them. They are sufficiently stab resistant for home use, but probably aren't a good choice for a more experienced shucker who works at speed.
Verdict: sufficiently stab resistant for home use, but probably aren't a good choice for a more experienced shucker who works at speed.
The Charleston Shucker Company Level 5 Cut Resistant Gloves
These cloth covered gloves allow good dexterity for shucking purposes, and come up well over the wrist to prevent water or oyster liquor seepage.
They're lightweight, flexible, and stab resistant enough for frequent home use, but they are not speed shucking gloves.
They’re made from a mixture of cloth and strong polyethylene plastic making them stab and level 5 cut resistant.
Each glove would fit either hand, so you get two single gloves for the price of one.
Verdict: sufficient protection for those of us who know how to shuck but probably aren't expert just yet.
Anderson's Neck Oyster Company shucking gloves
These carefully designed fabric gloves have a palm area dipped in thick latex rubber for safety, grip, and protection. While having a knit back and wrist allowing for comfort combined with flexibility.
Designed specifically for shucking, even by speed shuckers. They protect against cold and are also good for oyster picking. The long cuff protects wrists as well.
They come in a set of two, but the gloves are not reversible. They are washer safe, and the fabric area on the back allows them to be cleaned more easily than all fabric or lined rubber gloves.
These are very ergonomic oyster gloves, but they are not designed for other uses such as butchery or slicing, nor for heat.
Verdict: These gloves are really only for more experienced shuckers out there. They offer good protection if you shuck in hand like the pros. However the back of the hand isn't protected if you shuck on a table top.
304L Brushed Stainless Steel Mesh Cut Resistant Chain Mail Gloves
Made from high quality food grade stainless steel and sold as a single glove, the 304L is also excellent for other kitchen uses, such as butchery and slicing cheeses or meats.
The 304L comes in all 5 sizes, is ultra flexible, and will fit either hand. There's a adjustable nylon tape wrist clasp that keeps the glove secure and makes it quite comfortable to wear.
The stainless steel used in the manufacture of this glove is of the highest grade which means it won't rust
The mesh of this glove may be a little loose for some of the pointier oyster knives and they could possibly poke through a link.
Verdict: The 304l offers good protection for newbies and those who shuck reguarly.
44industry Chainmail Mesh Butcher Glove
This finely meshed, reversible glove is suitable for shuckers of all levels and offers excellent protection for newbies and pros a like. It’s all stainless steel construction meets ISO/DNI standards and is FDA and ANSI compliant.
The mesh is fine enough for safe shucking at speed. There's lots of chain mail gloves on the market, but ones with a wider mesh may allow the sharp point of an oyster knife to slip between the links.
All steel, this glove offers easy clean up. The wrist mesh has small hooks to tighten the fit. It does not protect against heat, cold, or wet circumstances, which is fairly obvious in an all steel glove. Though they are light, flexible, and comfortable to wear for an all steel glove.
44 industry gloves come in all 5 sizes and as an added bonus they offer a 1 year warranty.
Verdict: The 44 industries glove probably offers the best protection of most gloves on the market. Their flexible and lightweight enough to be worn by pros. while also offering the best stab protection to people just learning to shuck.
Oyster shucking gloves come in quite a few varieties and you've gotta consider your own needs and budget when choosing a style, as well as how often you will be using the glove(s).
Do you want to learn to shuck like a pro? Or do you just need a little protection when opening oysters at home.
Also think about whether you want to invest in a single purpose glove, or whether you would like gloves that are good for other kitchen tasks as well.
The 44industry glove is an excellent product for multi tasking, frequent use, and professional work, they offer great protection and grip for both newbies and pros.
I realise not everybody is willing to spend quite so much on a shucking glove and if that's you then you should consider the Anderson's Neck Oyster Gloves.
They have everything you need for picking and shucking, and are flexible, easy to clean and cold resistant. They also come in several sizes. It's a practical choice whether you plan to shuck frequently or just a few times a year.
A Final Word of Warning On Oyster Shucking Gloves
I’m a big fan of a raw oyster on the half shell and if you like to eat them this way than you’ve got to be a little bit careful with your gloves. Raw oysters are ready to eat, there's no cooking involved, so there's no heat to kill any bacteria present.
Your gloves could harbour lots of harmful bacteria especially if you use them for other jobs like prepping meat and cross contamination is a real danger.
The last thing you want is to send some friends you’ve invited around for dinner home with a dose of food poisoning. So keep your gloves sparkling clean and wash them thoroughly after each use in hot water if you plan on eating half shell raw oysters.
Better still, just use them for opening oysters and nothing else.....
Stay safe and happy shucking!
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