Living in New England means a steady stream of fresh oysters. Their seemingly impenetrable shells may seem daunting to a first time shucker. However, having the proper tool and learning to use it safely makes a stunning and elegant hors d’oeuvre worthy of a black tie cocktail party or starter for a burgers and beer backyard bbq.

Here is how you do it:

Buy this tool—a NEW HAVEN SHUCKER (it costs $16 and lasts forever) and don a HEAVY DUTY GLOVE.

Be patient with yourself. It takes time to get the hang of it, but follow these steps and you will be rewarded with a heavenly treat from the sea:

  • First, use an old stiff toothbrush to scrub the grit off the oysters.

  • Rinse the oysters under the coldest running water possible.

  • If right handed, put the glove on left hand. Place an oyster with the rounded, cup side to your palm. The hinge, or pointy end, should be facing toward your chest.

  • Insert the oyster knife into the hinge. When it seems wedged in, begin gently twisting the knife to separate the bottom and top shells. You will feel it when the hinge pops.

  • Now work the blade along the top of the shell, keeping as close to the top as possible.

  • Try not to tip the shell from side to side or turn it over, or you will lose the delicious juices (liquor) inside the oyster.

  • Open the oyster carefully and remove the top shell. Check for grit or small pieces of shell and remove if necessary. Gently run the knife under the fleshy meat to separate it from the bottom shell, but leave the meat on the shell for serving.

Prepare a bed of ice on a serving tray to keep the oysters fresh until serving--no more than 2 hours ahead of time and return to refrigerator on ice until ready to serve.