How to Buy, Shuck and Prepare Oysters

Long known as an aphrodisiac, oysters make a sumptuous starter when served with berry mignonette

Credit: courtesy Whole Foods Market

Stir the passion with fresh oysters and berry mignonette

While oysters have long been known for their stirring effects, wooing lovers may lean more toward aphrodisiacs that are easy to prepare

But the key to good oysters is simple: freshness and a good shuck. (What you do with that, of course, is up to you).

Follow these tips for buying, shucking and preparing oysters.

When Buying Oysters

  • Look for shells that are closed tightly and not broken (barnacles are okay)
  • Make sure to ask the local fish monger where the oysters were harvested, as this will determine the flavour
  • When you tap the shell, it shouldn’t sound hollow, otherwise the oyster may have perished
  • For beginners, choose smaller or medium-sized varieties such as Fanny Bay oysters from Vancouver Island – they tend to be sweeter with a cucumber finish

How to Shuck Oysters

Oyster shucking isn’t as complicated as it looks. Avoid a bad shuck by following these tips:

  • Use an oyster shucking knife – they have a short blade and pointed tip
  • Scrub the oysters to remove sand or contaminants
  • Don’t shuck oysters in your palm, rest them on the counter on top of a damp cloth
  • To open, work the tip of the knife into the back hinge of the oyster (take care to avoid stabbing the meat) and turn the knife to pop open the shell slightly
  • Run the tip of the knife along the top and bottom shell to cut the abductor muscle and release the meat
  • Serve immediately, presenting the oysters in the bottom shell on a tray of ice with lemon wedges

Recipe: Oysters with Valentine’s Day Mignonette


  • 1/2 cup champagne vinegar 

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons very finely chopped shallots 

  • 2 teaspoons finely crushed white pepper 

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Handful of crushed raspberries

  • 24 oysters, freshly shucked on the half shell


  1. In a small bowl, combine vinegar, olive oil, shallots, white pepper and salt and whisk to blend.
  2. Spoon mignonette and a touch of crushed raspberry atop oysters or serve mixture and berries alongside in small dishes.

Article courtesy of Whole Foods Market, Canada’s leading natural and organic retailer. B.C.’s Whole Foods Markets are committed to their communities, sourcing locally grown products whenever possible and raising money for local charities through a variety of in-store events and programs. Visit for the latest featured products, recipes and events in your area.