Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Back when I was a wee line cook, besides plating fish for crudo and chopping literal buckets of onions, I had to shuck oysters. The oyster knife the chef handed me on my first day was gorgeous, sporting a burnished, vintage pommel. It was also dull as a doornail and incredibly ineffective. I’d stand on the line, whittling away at the bivalves, bits of shell flaking off and on more than one occasion, poking my palm. And often all I had to show for my toil was a travesty: An oyster with its hinge side broken off, meat leaking out like a hernia (I’m so sorry for creating that visual, but it’s accurate). Maybe it was some sort of hazing ritual, who can say? Thankfully, a fellow line cook took pity on me and brought in his personal oyster knife—a no-frills option with a plastic handle and a sharp blade. I finally started to shuck oysters with confidence, with only the truly knobbly, dinosaur-like ones giving any resistance. 

The lesson of this tale: A dull oyster knife makes for a miserable (and potentially dangerous) experience. The good news? I worked out my right forearm testing 12 oyster knives, shucking literally 150 oysters so you don’t have to suffer as I once did. 

The Winners, at a Glance

This is a classic oyster knife for a reason: the wooden handle is the perfect size and it sports an upturned, sharp blade tip that deftly wedges into the oyster’s hinge. Throughout testing, it opened oysters big and small with ease and grace.

Sporting a grippy plastic handle, this New Haven-style knife dispatched oysters with incredible efficiency. 

Though it’s called Providence-style, we found this knife nearly identical to New Haven-style offerings. And, as such, it performed very well, with the upturned tip providing grip and leverage when prying open stubborn bivalves. (And this writer swears she’s not biased, even though she lives in Rhode Island). 

If comfort and grip are important to you, then this is your oyster knife. We loved its soft plastic handle, and sharp, upturned blade that cut through abductor muscles like butter. 

This all-metal oyster knife was surprisingly deft, sharp, and easy to use. While we wouldn’t recommend it for novice shuckers, if you want to show off a bit and have the chops, it’s a great knife. 

While other oyster knives with long, straight blades and rounded tips were often too awkward and dull, this one actually did quite well. It stuck into the hinge with a little effort and popped the shell off neatly. 

The Tests

Serious Eats / Grace KellyShuck Small Oysters Test: I used each oyster knife to shuck four small oysters, noting if they were easy to handle and maneuver and if they shucked quickly and without breaking the shell. Shuck Large Oysters Test: I used each oyster knife to shuck four large oysters, noting if they were easy to handle and maneuver and if they shucked quickly and without breaking the shell. Durability Test (Winners-Only): We used our favorite oyster knives to shuck an additional six oysters each, noting if they struggled in the process. Ease of Use and Cleaning Tests: Throughout testing, we noted how easy the oyster knives were to use and clean. 

What We Learned 

New Haven-Style Knives Are Best for Beginners 

We tested a variety of oyster knives, including Boston, New Haven, Duxbury, Seki, and Galveston-style.Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Search for an oyster knife, and you’ll see designs from all over—Galveston, Duxbury, Providence, Boston, New Haven, and more. And while each has its merit, I think the New Haven-style blade is the best for beginners or people who want a (relatively) easy shucking experience. It features a curved blade tip (which punctuates with a sharp point), allowing you to easily wedge it in and use your body weight to leverage the blade up, popping open the shell. While other blade styles, like the short and pointy Made In Oyster Shucker, Zyliss Oyster Tool, and R. Murphy/Ramelson Duxbury Oyster Knife, may seem like they could easily wedge into a shell, I found they were harder to wriggle into the hinge and didn’t provide the same leveraging capabilities. Plus, they were scarier to use since they had a more dagger-like shape (the Zyliss was particularly fearsome, with serrated edges and an ultra-pointy tip). The exception to this was the Messermeister shucker, which had the most unique design of them all: the whole knife (blade and handle) is curved, rather like a claw, and though the blade was sharp, pointy, and flat, it wedged into the oyster hinges surprisingly well. That said, I’d leave this knife to more experienced shuckers since it requires a little more finesse and confidence to use. 

A Sharp-ish Blade Was Helpful 

Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Compared to a standard kitchen knife, oyster knives are rather dull. But this is intentional—wedging a razor-sharp blade into a gnarly oyster shell could damage the knife, or at the very least quickly dull it. That said, oyster knives do need a little bit of a thin, sharp edge so they don’t just butt up against the shell, and so they can slice the meat free from the abductor muscle. As I waded elbows-deep into shucking oysters during testing, I found blades that had a sharp tip tended to be better at quickly dispatching the oyster. This included the wooden-handled R Murphy/Ramelson New Haven Oyster Knife Shucker, which sports a pointy, upturned blade tip that wedged into the hinge and easily sliced through the abductor muscle. In contrast, thick, bulky blades like the Williams Sonoma struggled to penetrate the shell. I also found that longer blades with a rounded tip, like the Seki Japan Oyster Knife and Dexter-Russell 4″ Galveston-Style Oyster Knife, were equally ineffective, or at the very least required a more experienced shucker. 

A Grippy, Rounded Handle Was a Plus

Shucking bushels of oysters is tough on the wrist and forearm. And while there’s no getting around it, a comfy handle does make the task slightly less tiresome. I really liked the smooth, wooden handle of the R Murphy/Ramelson New Haven Oyster Knife Shucker, which curved inwards and fit my hand like a glove. The OXO is another option if you’re looking for comfort since it sports a soft, plastic handle. And the knives from R Murphy, Dexter Russell, and Victorinox prevented slippage by coating handles in a bumpy plastic pattern. And while I liked the Messermeister oyster knife, since it’s made of a single piece of stainless steel, the handle did get a wee bit slippery with oyster liquor (yes, that’s what oyster juice is called), though a quick wipe solved the issue. 

To Get Shucking, First Grab Some Gloves and/or a Towel

Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

While New Haven-style knives are less, er, stabby than others we tested (lookin’ at you Zyliss), they’re still dang sharp. (I’m saying this as someone who, as a novice shucker in a high-pressure environment, managed to stab herself—nothing serious, though!— with a dull oyster knife). Even the most comfortable of shuckers who can whittle through a bushel in minutes often wear gloves or, at the very least, use a folded towel to hold down the oyster. We advise you to do the same. Just a note about towels: choose one you don’t mind basically destroying since shucking multiple oysters makes a big mess (juice, shell bits, mud from the outside shell, etc, etc). 

The Criteria: What to Look for In an Oyster Knife

Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

While professional shuckers have their preferences for knives, in general, for novice or intermediate shuckers we recommend investing in a New Haven-style knife. This sports a pointed, upturned tip that’s easy to wedge into the oyster’s hinge, and that aids in popping the shell up and off. It should also have a comfortable handle and be sharp enough to slice through the abductor muscle that attaches the oyster to the shell. 

The Best Oyster Knives

What we liked: This simple, beautiful oyster knife was sharp and easy to use, with an upturned tip that dug into the tough oyster shell and popped it open with ease. The curved wooden handle is also very comfy to hold, molding to the shape of your hand. 

What we didn’t like: It’s a bit on the pricey side, but it’s a classic oyster knife for a reason: it shucks like a dream. The handle is also unfinished, so it’s best to give it a light coating of food-grade mineral oil before use. 

Price at time of publish: $32.

Key Specs

Style: New HavenBlade length: 2.75 inchesHandle length: 3.75 inchesWeight: 1.5 ouncesMaterials: Stainless steel, woodCare: Hand-wash only Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

What we liked: Sporting a New Haven-style blade, this oyster knife made easy work of even big, deep-cup oysters (which can be quite difficult to shuck). The plastic handle has a grippy texture, which prevented slipping even when coated in oyster liquor. 

What we didn’t like: The hard plastic handle wasn’t quite as comfortable as other handles, and the blade felt a tad less sharp than the R Murphy New Haven oyster knife. 

Price at time of publish: $17.

Key Specs 

Style: New HavenBlade length: 2 5/8 inchesHandle length: 4 inchesWeight: 2.8 ouncesMaterials: Stainless steel, plasticCare: Hand-wash only Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

What we liked: Very similar to the Dexter-Russell, this oyster knife performed equally well, dispatching of oysters with ease. It also sported a textured handle, which allowed for a solid grip. 

What we didn’t like: Like the Dexter-Russell, it wasn’t quite as sharp as the R Murphy knife and didn’t cut the abductor muscle quite as easily. 

Price at time of publish: $17.

Key Specs 

Style: New HavenBlade length: 2 5/8 inchesHandle length: 4 inchesWeight: 2.8 ouncesMaterials: Stainless steel, plasticCare: Hand-wash only Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

What we liked: It’s squishy! The handle, that is. Which made it super comfy to hold even whilst we were in the trenches shucking and shucking some more. The sharp, upturned blade removed the oyster shells cleanly and with little effort on our part. 

What we didn’t like: It was ever so slightly less sharp than the R Murphy, but we’re splitting hairs here. It’s a great oyster knife! 

Price at time of publish: $12.

Key Specs 

Style: New HavenBlade length: 3 inchesHandle length: 3.75 inchesWeight: 2.7 ouncesMaterials: Stainless steel, plasticCare: Hand-wash only Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

What we liked: This claw-like oyster knife was surprisingly easy to grip and use. The pointed blade, which is flat, was quite sharp on all sides and easily cut into oysters’ hinges. It was a pleasure to use and made shucking fast and easy. We also think this would serve admirably as a clam knife if a chilled plate of raw littlenecks is calling to you. 

What we didn’t like: It sports a curved shape and pointy blade, that, while sharp and effective, made it a little more challenging to use than a New Haven-style knife. The handle also got a bit slippery during shucking, and it’s on the pricey side. 

Price at time of publish: $40.

Key Specs 

Style: Verging on Duxbury-style (pointy, flat blade) Blade length: 2 1/8 inchesHandle length: 4 inchesWeight: 3.3 ouncesMaterials: Stainless steelCare: Hand-wash onlySerious Eats / Grace Kelly

What we liked: While we generally avoid straight oyster knives (why use one when you could use the all-powerful New Haven shucker??), this one was surprisingly decent. Like, we didn’t give ourselves a wrist workout wriggling it into the shell. It entered neatly, popped smoothly, and cut the oyster out decently. 

What we didn’t like: It’s a bit long for comfort, and if you’re new to shucking oysters, might present more of a challenge than an upturned blade. 

Price at time of publish: $13.

Key Specs 

Style: BostonBlade length: 3 inchesHandle length: 4 inchesWeight: 2.3 ozMaterials: Stainless steel, plasticCare: Hand-wash onlySerious Eats / Grace Kelly

The Competition 

Zyliss Oyster Tool: This odd, pointy oyster knife came with a rubbery glove of sorts (it kind of looks like a slipper) that you stick the oyster into while you attack it from the other end. Except, a towel proved more useful; the rubber glove/sleeve was too big and didn’t grip the oyster. Not to mention the knife itself was dull, pointy, serrated, and overall scary (but at the same time, not). We struggled to open a single oyster with it. R. Murphy/Ramelson Duxbury Oyster Knife: While this isn’t a bad knife (don’t want to offend anyone from Duxbury!), it’s pointy and straight with no curve, making it more difficult to use. Made In Oyster Shucker: The rough wooden handle was bulky and unpleasant to hold, and the blade, while pointy and sharp-looking, felt dull. While we were able to shuck some smaller oysters, the bigger, thicker ones gave us grief. Plus, at $50, it was one of the more expensive oyster knives in the lineup. Dexter-Russell (S137PCP) – 4″ Galveston-Style Oyster Knife: Again, not a bad oyster knife, per se, but the long, flat blade was difficult to wedge into the oysters and it didn’t provide the lift that New Haven-style blades did. Williams Sonoma Seafood Oyster Knife: Looking more like a medieval dagger than an oyster knife, this chunky blade performed poorly. It was too thick to slip into the divot near the oyster’s hinge, and too dull to do any damage. But if you’re into LARPing, well, it may be good for that. Seki Japan Oyster Knife: While this was undeniably a beautiful knife, the blade was too long and the tip too round to wedge into chunkier bivalves. 


What’s the best way to shuck an oyster?

From my experience, the best way to shuck an oyster is with a good knife. Seriously! Once you’ve gotten that down, grab a kitchen towel you don’t mind getting dirty and a cut-proof glove (optional). Fold the towel in half lengthwise, then fold it over crosswise. Place the oyster in the center of the towel and fold half of the towel over it, leaving the hinge exposed. Use one hand (gloved, optionally) to press down on the wide part of the oyster, while maneuvering the tip of the oyster knife into the gap near the hinge. I find that using a rocking, side-to-side motion with your hand wriggles the blade in nicely. Once the blade is wedged in there, twist the blade up and down slightly to pop the shell off. Wipe the blade (no one wants shell bits flinging out as they slide an oyster into their maws), and run it under the top shell to sever it from the bottom. Wipe your blade again, and use the knife to cut the abductor muscle where the meat is attached to the shell. You can flip the oyster meat over, if you want to, before serving—this is what fancy restaurants do, but it’s optional! You can read more about shucking and serving oysters here and here

How should you store oysters?

The best way to store oysters is on a sheet tray with a damp towel on top. The towel should be re-dampened daily or as needed. When properly stored, oysters can last about 10 days. 

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