Shucking 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 poping. 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.
The 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.
The 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
The 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.
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.
Next 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
The knife is then turned to the side as shown here to open
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.
The top shell is discarded and the knife now cuts the knot on the
bottom shell is sort of a scooping motion.
Finally the oyster freed and ready to pop in your mouth.
The entire process is designed to maintain minimal knife-to-oyster
Now, if you use the prying method, you can still use the knot
cutting technique discussed here.
This 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