From Season 13: Two Ways with Fish
You could wait for a night out to enjoy the briny pleasure of a fresh, raw oyster, but with the right tool and some practice you can shuck oysters at home for a fraction of restaurant prices. Regular knives are unsuitable for opening oysters because they’re too sharp and flexible; the thick, dull blades of oyster knives function as levers to pry shells apart without cutting into them. To find the best all-purpose oyster knife—one that would be compact enough to handle small oysters yet sturdy enough to tackle large ones—we ordered dozens of oysters in a wide range of sizes and enlisted a battalion of testers, from newbies who’d never attempted the task to expert shuckers like Jeremy Sewall, owner of and executive chef at Boston’s Island Creek Oyster Bar.
Our testers tried out six different knives in four different styles (named for their region of origin), priced from $7.99 to $16.80. All managed to open oysters, but some did so with far less struggling. Handle design was important, since it takes a certain amount of pressure to shuck an oyster. Some handles felt clumsy and were too thick, slippery, or short to hold firmly. The best handles fit comfortably in our palms and had a nonslip surface that didn’t send our hands sliding toward the blade. One thicker blade with beveled edges proved too clumsy to open oysters with speed or dexterity. A deft little French-style knife with a pointed blade impressed testers; we recommend it only for more experienced shuckers because of its sharp tip. But all testers gave top marks to a New Haven–style knife that had a flat blade with a slight upward bend at the tip. This bend gives excellent leverage when popping the hinge and can slip under the meat, curving along the inside of the shell to neatly sever the muscle and detach the oyster meat. Our winner is light and comfortable and has a simple design that enabled even first timers to efficiently open everything from chestnut-size Kumamotos to 4-inchers from Martha’s Vineyard.
The right one can make a difficult task a lot easier.Watch the Video
Victorinox (formerly Victorinox Forschner) 6-inch Straight Boning Knife: Flexible
The nonslip grip and narrow, straight blade let testers remove the smallest bones with precision and complete comfort. Perfectly balanced with enough flexibility to maneuver around tight joints. The low price was a bonus.
|★ ★ ★||★ ★ ★||$19.95|
Wüsthof Classic Boning Knife
Hefty in weight, this knife was a solid performer when removing poultry bones, and the handle was easy to grip, even when covered in chicken fat. Piercing silver skin was a challenge since the tip wasnt sharp enough and the long narrow blade produced slightly jagged cuts.
|★ ★||★ ★ ★||$99.95|
|Recommended with Reservations|
Mundial Boning Knife: Flexible
The sharp tip performed well when removing silver skin, but it was too flexible when maneuvering around poultry joints, leaving testers feeling a lack of control. The heavy handle was slightly unbalanced and became slippery once covered in poultry fat.
|★ ★||★ ★||$19.95|
Shun Gokujo Filet Knife
Designed to replicate a samurai blade, this expensive knife was a disappointment. It struggled to pierce the silver skin, although long cuts were smooth and even. Minimal flexibility and extreme curve got in the way when maneuvering around joints. The smooth handle was hard to grip and slippery.
MAC Boning KnifeChef Series
The large, cumbersome handle reminded testers of an outdoors knife for fishing and hunting. The blade was too wide to maneuver around joints and it struggled to pierce silver skin. Unlike other knives, this boning knife could only slice in one direction, making intricate cuts around joints difficult.
Messermeister San Moritz Elite Flexible Boning Knife
The blade was so flexible it led to erratic cuttings; testers said the knife was hard to control. The blade was not sturdy enough to maneuver around joints and the lightweight handle felt flimsy and unbalanced.