Pulling Mussels From A Shell (or clams or oysters) – Atlantic Seafood’s Guide On How to Shuck Clams, Oysters, and Mussels


At Atlantic Seafood of Old Saybrook, we are proud to provide the best clams, mussels, and oysters in Connecticut. Seafood is our passion and we do much more than simply peddle our shellfish. Our gourmet seafood chefs know all of the ins and outs of shellfish preparation and one of the key processes needed in order to enjoy delicious clams, oysters, or mussels is shucking. Shucking simply refers to the process of opening and disconnecting a mollusk from its shell in order to make consumption possible. It would certainly be a crime for you to bring home some delicious seafood from our CT seafood market only to struggle and fail in the attempt to extract it from its shell and miss out on a gourmet seafood treat. We feel it is our obligation to provide you with the best information as to how to prepare your shellfish. After all, knowledge is power. Please read on to see our step-by-step instructions on how to shuck oysters, clams, and mussels and arm yourself with some empowering culinary knowledge.

1. Before you begin to shuck your clams (or oysters or mussels), it is important that you have all of the tools that you’re going to need. Make sure that you have all of the following items:
– A knife (We humbly suggest you use the excellent bent-tip oyster knives and heavy duty clam knives that are sold at Atlantic Seafood)
– A recepticle for the shellfish juices
– A towel to protect your hand with
– A pan with about 1 inch of water for steaming, if you’re cooking mussels and want an especially easy shucking session

2. Check to make sure that all of your clams, mussels, and/or oysters are still alive. You can do this by checking to see if the shell is tightly shut and resists manual opening attempts. If this is the case, your shellfish are still alive and are fresh and optimum for cooking. If they are dead, be sure to discard them.

3. Thoroughly clean the mussels, oysters, or clams by way of running them under cold water and scrubbing them vigorously with steel wool or a very firm brush.

3a. At Atlantic Seafood of Old Saybrook, we always sell our mussels in “restaurant ready” condition. That means that we’ve already removed the “beards” of the mussels for you.  However, if you’ve caught your mussels yourself or have purchased them from a seafood market other than Atlantic Seafood, the beard of each mussel may still be present and you’ll have to remove this prior to cooking. The beard is actually a substance called the Byuss threads which are a collection of stringy fibers that mussels grow in order to anchor themselves to objects and to immobilize potential predators. Removing beards from mussels is easily done by way of cutting them off with scissors or using a small knife.

4. Wrap one hand in the towel and then place the oyster, clam, or mussel into the palm of that hand, with the hinge of the shell braced against the thumb area of your palm.

4a. If you want to have an especially easy time shucking, especially if shucking mussels, place the shells into a pan with about an inch of boiling water and let them sit in there for approximately 2 to 3 minutes. This process is known as steaming.

5. Take your knife, while holding it horizontally, and carefully slip the blade into the crevice between the two halves of the shell and slide the knife from one side to the other. This will help to sever the abductor muscle, which is what holds the shell closed. Be firm but careful as you do this.

6. Once you have managed to open the shell, you can cut the remnants of the abductor muscle from the shell and remove them.

7. Serve your your clams, oysters, or mussels on the half shell or alternately, slide the knife underneath the meat to cut the knob of muscle that connects it to the shell and remove the meat for consumption or further preparation.

There you go – it’s just that simple. Pretty easy, right? We hope you’ll remember this little guide the next time you stop in at Atlantic Seafood for delicious fresh clams, mussels, and oysters in Connecticut.

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