Oyster Knives

Published May 1, 2012. From Cook's Illustrated.

  • Print

The right one can make a difficult task a lot easier.

Overview:

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… read more

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.

Methodology:

STYLES THAT WE TESTED:
Boston: Thin, straight, stabber-style blade.
French: Short, sharp blade.
New Haven: Shorter blade that tapers to a point and bends up slightly at the end.
Providence: Straight blade; medium width and length.

less
  • Product Tested

    Results Key:

    Good ★ ★ ★ Fair ★ ★ Poor
  • Prices are subject to change.
  • Highly Recommended - Winner

    R. Murphy New Haven Oyster Knife with Stainless Steel Blade

    This oyster knife (we chose the model with a stainless steel blade) is well crafted, with a simple, comfortable wooden handle that never budged in our hands. A slightly upturned tip was helpful when inserting the point into the hinge and was able to slice oyster muscle without damaging the meat. It’s the lightest knife that we tested; one shucker noted that it “seemed to disappear and become part of your hand.”

    • Blade ★★★
    • Handle ★★★
    • Comfort ★★★
    • Function ★★★
    • Durability ★★★

    $16.65

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Highly Recommended

    Dexter-Russell 2 3/4-inch Oyster Knife

    Restaurant professionals that we interviewed favor this sturdy knife, and we can see why. Its pointy, upturned tip easily maneuvers to pop hinges and slice muscles. The textured, nonslip polypropylene handle is longer than most of the others that we tested, with a rounded bulb at the end that fit comfortably in hands of all sizes. It performed just as well as our winner but is a bit heavier.

    • Blade ★★★
    • Handle ★★½
    • Comfort ★★★
    • Function ★★★
    • Durability ★★★

    $10.83

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended

    Déglon Oyster Knife

    This deft little knife has an ergonomically shaped handle that nestled neatly into palms large and small. Its sharp blade allowed for adroit maneuvering, popping hinges with finesse and dexterously severing muscles. We downgraded it slightly only because it’s less all-purpose than our winners: The tip is too sharp for beginners, and while it easily opened small-to-medium-size oysters, its stubby blade cracked a few large shells in half. Perfect for a more experienced shucker and smaller oysters.

    • Blade ★★½
    • Handle ★★★
    • Comfort ★★★
    • Function ★★½
    • Durability ★★★

    $9.75

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended with Reservations

    Victorinox Boston-Style Oyster Knife, 3” Narrow, SuperGrip Handle

    This knife had the same handle as our highly recommended Dexter-Russell: bulb-shaped and comfortable, with a great grip. But the blade was too long for some testers, who felt that they couldn’t get proper leverage with their hands so far away from the oyster, especially with petite Kumamotos. “I don’t trust myself with it,” said one tester. The blade also wasn’t as dexterous at severing muscles due to its lack of a curved tip.

    • Blade ★½
    • Handle ★★★
    • Comfort ★★★
    • Function ★½
    • Durability ★★★

    $16.80

  • Recommended with Reservations

    OXO Good Grips Oyster Knife

    This knife had all the right traits, but somehow they didn’t add up to a great knife. It worked decently with large oysters, but its New Haven–style tip at the end of a thick, wide blade had us struggling to pop shell hinges. The handle was another problem: Large and clumsy, it was too broad to get a comfortable grip. Thin ridges in the handle didn’t help—our thumbs still slipped toward the blade.

    • Blade ★★
    • Handle ★½
    • Comfort ★½
    • Function ★★
    • Durability ★★★

    $7.99

  • Not Recommended

    Trudeau Oyster Knife and Case Set

    The only knife in our lineup equipped with a blade guard comes with a small plastic case for holding the oyster as you open it. But it was also the only blade judged unsafe by testers. The case didn’t let us get a firm grip: Oysters of all sizes jiggled around inside. The flimsy blade bent in the first round of testing, and the handle was slippery and short; the plastic guard at its end just made it impossible to get a firm grip.

    • Blade
    • Handle
    • Comfort
    • Function
    • Durability

    $11.99

In My Favorites
Please Wait…
Remove Favorite
Add to custom collection