There’s nothing quite like the fresh oysters in Panama City, Florida; the dozens of restaurants and raw bars featured on the Panama City Oyster Trail are a testament to that. A generations-old sustainable industry and a cherished part of our culture, you can find a number of purveyors with oysters harvested by our local watermen. We’re home to a four-time oyster shucking champion, and you can even visit the raw oyster bars to watch the pros shucking oysters right in front of you. Shucking oysters might look intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be! Here are 5 tips to shuck an oyster at home.
1. Buying and Storing Fresh Oysters
The most important tip in shucking oysters is making sure you have fresh oysters. Luckily, there’s no shortage of that in Panama City. The key to fresh oysters is making sure they are tightly closed and kept cold. You can find fresh live oysters locally at Tarpon Dock Seafood Market and Buddy Gandy’s Seafood Market.
It’s best to buy fresh oysters the day you plan to shuck them. If you need to purchase them a few days ahead of time, simply store the fresh oysters in the packaging your purchased them in, making sure they have enough air flow (they’re alive, after all). You can also place them cup side down in a container with a damp towel over them to help keep them fresh and hydrated.
2. When to Buy and Eat Oysters
You’ve probably heard the myth before that oysters can only be eaten in months that contain the letter “R”, but the warm Gulf Coast water and new harvesting processes mean that oysters are always in season. You might have a favorite season you prefer to enjoy oysters, but it’s purely based on preference.
3. Using the Right Tools to Shuck an Oyster
Successfully shucking oysters relies on having the right tools. It’s best to use an oyster shucking knife to help you properly shuck an oyster. A cut proof shucking cloth or glove will also protect your hands, especially if you’re inexperienced at shucking oysters.
4. Shucking Oysters
You’ll want to clean your oysters first. Simply rinse them under cold running water to remove sand and grit. Hold the oysters in your cloth or glove with the cup side down and flat side up. Insert the tip of your oyster knife into the hinge of the oyster (the hinge is the side that naturally opens and closes). Use a little bit of pressure to gently wiggle the knife back and forth until the hinge pops open. Separate the shells by sliding the knife along the top shell, being careful not to cut the oyster in the process. Remove and discard the top shell, and then run your knife under the oyster to remove it from the bottom shell.
5. Serving and Eating Oysters
The simplest way to eat your freshly shucked oysters is raw on the half shell. To keep them fresh, serve them cold by lining a platter with crushed ice and nestling the shucked oysters directly on top. You can enjoy your oysters naked or serve with garnishes, like lemon wedges and hot sauce.