Tools of the trade include special gloves and knives.

Tools of the trade include special gloves and knives. Credit: David Daly

Whenever Eileen McGuire has new houseguests at her home in Southold, one of the musts on her itinerary is to take them to an oyster shucking class.

“It’s fabulous,” said McGuire. “Very educational, and a lot of fun.”

There are more than two dozen oyster growers across Long Island, but only a handful offer shucking lessons.

On-site classes usually start with a lesson on the life of an oyster, the method of cultivating them, the history of oyster farming, how the mollusks affect our ecosystem (one adult can filter 50 gallons of water a day) and more. You also often have the chance to tour an oyster farm and see the spawning process firsthand, according to David Daly of Southold Bay Oysters.

Guests are then provided with the necessary gear, including a special opening knife and gloves, for the latter part of the session, when they get a chance to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty.

So how hard is it to shimmy open a stubborn mollusk? Well, there’s a reason there are professional oyster shuckers: Oysters have a very strong muscle called the adductor that allows it to shut its shell quickly when approached by a predator. To make shucking even more of a challenge, the shells are fit tightly together and move on a hinge to open, and it’s difficult to find a spot to slip in your oyster knife.

If you’re intimidated, Daly offers words of encouragement. “It actually requires patience more than strength,” he explained.

McGuire, who has taken multiple shucking lessons, said, “You have to put a little muscle into it. It’s all about technique.”

At the end of the classes, the reward is to enjoy the delicious oysters you’ve painstakingly opened.

“It’s truly an eye-opening experience,” said McGuire. “Learning about oyster farming, holding the baby oysters and learning how important they are in keeping our waters clean actually makes the oysters taste better because you truly appreciate them.”

Peter Stein, of Peeko Oysters in New Suffolk, agreed. “These oyster-shucking experiences are an ideal and storied way to discover just how special these oysters are.”

And in case you were wondering, no one has found a pearl yet. But you never know . . .


Want to take a class? These are four oyster growers that offer shucking lessons on Long Island:


A public farm tour with a shucking class can cost $90 per person, while a private farm tour and shucking lesson starts at $475 for up to 6 guests.

When to Book

Most shucking lessons on Long Island are offered from mid-spring through early fall.

What to Bring

Everything you need to shuck will be furnished at your class. However, check with the venue regarding food and drink availability.

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