How to Clean Oyster Shells

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Things You'll Need

  • Water

  • Stiff-bristled brush

  • Dish soap

  • Rubber gloves

  • Bleach

  • Terrycloth towel(s)

  • Quality oyster knife

Image Credit: Hemera Technologies/ Images

Oysters are low in cholesterol, high in vitamins and minerals, and best of all—delicious. Choosing the right oysters is as important as properly cleaning and preparing them. Choose oysters that smell fresh and sweet like the sea, have a solid sound to them when tapping two together and feel full and heavy in your hand. You can clean oyster shells easily with a bit of care and patience, but be sure to pick up a good oyster shucking knife before beginning your endeavors.


Step 1

Store your live oysters inside of the refrigerator for no more than seven days before using. They should not be stored in plastic, as this can kill them, or in water. Cover with a damp towel until ready to use.

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Step 2

Put on rubber gloves and scrub the outside of the oyster shell with a stiff-bristled brush, rinsing with cool water. Set aside on a clean towel and scrub the remaining oysters.


Step 3

Hold the oyster in one gloved hand with the flat side up, working to keep the oyster level in your hand as you pry it open.

Step 4

Position the sharp tip of your oyster knife in between the shells next to the hinge, twisting the blade to pry the two shells apart. Run the blade tip around the shell, twisting and prying until you reach the other side. Work slowly and carefully to avoid cutting yourself by a sudden movement.


Step 5

Slide your knife in between the shells to cut the muscle so you can spread the shells completely open. If you wish to retain the juice, be careful not to overturn the rounded shell as it sits on your hand.

Step 6

Remove the oyster meat from the shell and set aside.


Step 7

Scrub the inside of the shells with warm soapy water and rinse well.

Step 8

Place shells in a solution of one tbsp. bleach to one gallon of water and allow them to soak for five minutes.


Step 9

Rinse shells under cool water, making sure to thoroughly remove the bleach solution.

Step 10

Hand dry shells with a soft terrycloth towel and set on a dry clean surface, allowing them to air dry.


Cold oysters are easier to shuck; if you are shucking a large quantity, only remove a few from the refrigerator at a time.

Shuck oyster shells no more than two hours before you plan to serve them to retain freshness and flavor.


Always use an oyster knife to shuck oysters; regular paring knives can be dangerous, and thin blades can easily break between the shells.


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