Longtime Pascal’s Manale oyster shucker Thomas “Uptown T” Stewart makes the laborious and maddening task of cracking open fresh Gulf oysters look supremely easy. Years of practice have helped Uptown T, as has his oyster-shucking mantra: “To control the knife is to control the oyster.”
Once they’re good and shucked, they’re ready for toppings – and in New Orleans, you’re not hidebound to a lemony mignonette. Olive oil, hot sauce, and even ketchup are just a few of the ways to dress up your oyster before slurping it down.
But just how does one shuck these briny delicacies? Uptown T walks us through the process in this video, and we’ve included the key takeaways below.
How to Shuck an Oyster
What You’ll Need
- Sharp knife (be careful!)
- Industrial rubber gloves (not required, but an added level of protection)
What to Do
1. Clean it. Remove any dirt and debris from the oysters and carefully wash them. If you find an open shell, discard the oyster.
2. Crack it. Once you’re set up with a towel and gloves, insert the tip of the knife into the hinge of the oyster shell. Apply enough pressure to separate the top shell from the bottom shell; you’ll likely need to jimmy the knife back and forth forcefully.
3. Repeat. Keep on shucking until you’re exhausted. Then enjoy the oysters with your preferred toppings (or with no toppings at all).
Thomas Stewart: “I’m Thomas Stewart, a.k.a. ‘Uptown T,’ Pascal Manale’s Restaurant. Been here for 25 years shucking oysters, here I am. I’m not going to say I’m the best at it all, but I’m one of the best through the city of New Orleans. No brag, gotcha.
“Took me two and a half weeks maybe, just to learn how to get it open, and once I learned how to get it open, then I was told to cut it. I have the front and what I call the ‘butt’- that’s the back of the oyster. Just give it a little nudge, give it a little twist, get all that outta there, and there you have it, oyster shucked.
“To control the knife is to control the oyster, and don’t be afraid of hurting yourself, it’s how you learn how to ride a bike, hmm? People come in, sometimes every day, every other day, have their dozen oysters, you know, people have their own preference and know what they like. If you like horseradish? Go for it! If you love olive oil? Put it on your skin, rub it! You know? Whatever you wanna do with it. Bunch of ketchup, and then I put worcestershire sauce and some Tabasco or Crystal and put it on a cracker which has salt on it… mm mm mm (laughing). I’m a little simpler, I get a cup of ketchup, little bit of horseradish, and dump my oyster in, and there you have it.
“It’s fun, it’s crazy, you have to be back here to really see the difference in what people do. You have people like, ‘Oh man, I’m gonna come in here one day and eat 15 dozen oysters’ and I say, ‘Okay, come on by, I’ll be here, help me out, keep me busy.’ Because this is what I do: shucking oysters and making people happy. Voila!”