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Shucking and sucking oysters: Learning the real (raw) deal

Lessons and a photo essay from an Oyster 101 class with Fairmont Waterfront’s Executive Chef, Dana Hauser.

Experiencing a first is always exciting and many times I welcome the opportunity to try something new. This is especially true when it comes to learning about food as I have A LOT to learn. Taking a class on shucking oysters was one such experience I was very enthusiastic to try during a recent trip to British Columbia.

It was fabulous to have some professional guidance for the hands-on session. Chef Hauser was a wonderful and patient teacher who has definitely shucked her fair share of oysters. She not only taught me how to get an oyster out of its rugged shell but she also made sure I didn’t stab myself. Bonus.


I felt right at home in the Fairmont kitchen. Haha.

Onto the lesson! Chef Hauser taught me that to properly shuck and suck an oyster you must:

  1. First prepare a drink – Bloody Mary’s are a GREAT choice. Chef’s idea. I told you she was fantastic.Chef Dana Hauser

2. Take the (live) oyster in your hand and place the curved side of it against the palm of your hand. Look for the hinge – it should be facing you.

Stick the oyster in a towel but be sure you can see the hinge. The towel is for safety – oyster shucking can easily result in hand injuries as prying can sometimes take some serious muscle (as you can see from my white knuckles – I had to work hard!).

Learning how to shuck a raw oyster

3. Use a knife designed for oyster shucking. This will save you time and energy. And like the knife, you can actually get special gloves to protect your hands from the coarse shells and the knife too (of course).

Oyster knives will definitely make the job easier, but be careful as cutting oneself oyster shucking is a common injury.

4. Insert the oyster knife into the hinge. Twist the knife from side to side and try to separate the top and bottom shells. You will feel the hinge pop when the knife is twisted.

A pro, Chef Hauser demonstrates popping the hinge with ease (and without the towel).

5. Hold the shell steady once you have it open to keep all the juice in and use the knife to separate the meat from the shell. Remove any grit or loose shell pieces.

Chef Dana Hauser and Jenn Smith Nelson

6. Add some toppings or suck it raw. But definitely save some of your Bloody Mary as it goes perfectly with raw oysters!

Oyster toppings

Toppings or raw, the choice is yours!

There are many ways to enjoy an oyster but I opted for raw. Bottoms up!

Sucking a raw oyster

It wasn’t pretty but it went down easy!

Raw oysters not your thing? Shucking for someone else? Set them on ice!


Fairmont Waterfront’s Restaurant Chef Alessandro Vianello places freshly shucked oysters on ice. Three types of oyster pictured here. My favorite were the small ones – the Kumomoto. I learned however to shuck the largest ones, called Fanny Bay oysters.

The Fairmont Waterfront is devoted to fresh, sustainable and seasonal ingredients. Chef Hauser volunteers to educate consumers about the issues surrounding sustainable food with organizations such as Food Day Canada 2012 and the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise Program, which supports sustainable seafood practices. And you should learn how the Fairmont Waterfront works with bees – very cool!

Learn more about Chef Hauser.

*Thank you to Chef Hauser, Nancie Hall, Ki Communications, Fairmont Waterfront, Destination British Columbia and the many other wonderful folks involved with the Vancouver portion of the Sea to Sky media trip. I learned so much from the diverse itinerary and really enjoyed every experience. For those wondering, this gush is of my own doing and purely true. 

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