Food trends may come and go, but some things in gastronomy never change. To borrow a phrase from the great food writer M.F.K. Fisher, consider the oyster. Getting that bivalve out of its fortress has been a challenge for time immemorial, and traditional oyster shucking knives have never excelled at the task. Toronto restaurateur Patrick McMurray, who holds the Guinness record for the most oysters shucked in a minute (38), says the problem lies not with the knife blades, but the handles, which lack leverage.
The handle on a traditional oyster knife is a teardrop or pear-shaped knob. "It tapers toward the blade and doesn't provide enough contact in the palm," says Mr. McMurray, who owns the restaurant Starfish and the pub Ceili Cottage. His kitchens shuck about 4,000 oysters a week. To make life easier, Mr. McMurray, who studied bio-mechanics at university, designed a new knife.
The Shucker Paddy, manufactured in China, is the result of three years experimentation and 40 prototypes made by Mr. McMurray. The knife's nylon handle fits the palm like a pistol; a narrow, 10-centimetre stainless-steel blade is where the pistol's barrel would be, with sharpened edges top and bottom. Traditional oyster knives have only one axis, running straight down the blade, but the Shucker Paddy has two - one down the blade, the other down the angled pistol grip. That dual axis gives the knife a lot more leverage.
The difference is akin to turning a doorknob compared to a door handle. Holding the Shucker Paddy palm down, you firmly wriggle the point of its blade about 2 millimetres into the oyster's hinge. Then twist your wrist clockwise (counter-clockwise if you're left-handed). As the knife's tip rotates, the oyster pops open. The world is your oyster.
$30 by phone from Spirit of Hospitality, 905-277-3380, in person at Starfish or Ceili Cottage restaurants, or online from www.shuckerpaddy.com.
Slippage is nearly impossible with the pistol grip. A nylon flange protects the index finger from making contact with the oyster's jagged shell.
Ease of use
The 45-degree-angle ergonomically designed handle feels good in the palm and keeps the forearm in alignment with the blade for maximum transfer of power. With the knife's dual axis, I could easily open eight oysters in a minute. Not quite McMurray's Guinness record speed, but a lot faster than the three I struggled to open in the same time using an old-fashioned knife.
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