There's more than one way to shuck shellfish, as Google's executive chef recently learned, much to her embarrassment. On a recent episode of the new season of Top Chef, Preeti Mistry struggled to pry open clams during a quickfire relay race as other contestants on the cooking show looked on in horror. " Preeti is trying to open clams like you would open an oyster, which is not at all how you open a clam," one of the chefs on the show says. As another contestant says: " The hardest part about shucking clams is knowing how to do it." Indeed.
Both shucking techniques require the same tools:
1. A clam/ oyster knife ñ a shortbladed, dull knife with a tip that is flat and pointed enough to penetrate the tightly closed hinge of the shellfish, but rounded enough that it doesn't cut into the flesh inside.
2. Kitchen towel ñ protects the hand holding the shellfish in case the knife slips. A stainlesssteel mesh glove works as well.
OYSTERS Hold the oyster in your hand with hinge facing you. The more concave half of the shell should be on the bottom.
Find the narrow point on the oyster that marks the fulcrum or hinge. Carefully wedge the pointed end of the oyster knife between the shells. Holding the oyster parallel to the floor, twist the knife to pry the shell open.
Being careful not to cut into oyster meat, slide knife around shell and cut the abductor muscle, which joins the shell and oyster.
Lift off the top shell. Scrape the knife underneath the oyster to detach it from the shell, taking care not to lose any of the oyster's prized briny juices.
Hold the clam in your hand with the edge that opens facing your knife hand. The more concave half of the shell should be on the bottom. The knife should be held so that it's parallel to the clam shell opening. Insert the knife into the clam, keeping the blade as close to the top of the shell as possible, and twist it to open the shell. The rest of the process follows the same steps used for an oyster.
DAVE McGINN / TRISH McALASTER / THE GLOBE AND MAIL