Reviewing The Half Sheller Oyster Shucking Board
Being able to shuck oysters is a valuable capability. Since switching to shucking, I've been able to save up to 60% on the cost of oysters.
However this activity tends to be rather messy and when performed incorrectly, quite hazardous. So how do we make shucking more user-friendly and clean? Meet the Littledeer Half Sheller.
The Littledeer Half Sheller is a beautifully crafted, solid maple wood shucking board that is shaped like an egg with an elevated heel in the middle. Strangely enough, it also kind of reminds me of the underside of a horseshoe crab. Not only is this board designed well (I'll explain why later), the quality really shines through.
The Half Sheller is an innovative design by Littledeer, an artisanal cookware company based in Quebec, Canada. The inventor/designer Tom Littledeer and his wife Sharron had emailed me this summer about their product. Last month I was able to test it out in my own kitchen on some mega-sized West Coast oysters from Hood Canal. Then finally this weekend I had some time to write down my thoughts. (Why the delay? I have been busy transitioning into a new job at Translation!)
Solving A Home Shucker's Problem
First of all, there are not many oyster boards out there and this is definitely the most attractive one that I've seen. Technically, you don't need a board to shuck an oyster. The result, though, is a messy wet counter or whatever surface you are using to hold the shell down. I have also done a lot of damage to my kitchen towels and rubber gloves, as they will quickly soak up the oyster liquid and shell debris.
My favorite thing about using the Half Sheller is that it keeps my work surface clean. Any liquid that seeps out of the oyster is contained in the trough area and can be swiftly discarded. With a little coat of beeswax, the maple wood surface becomes waterproof so that brine just wicks right off. The "island" in the middle also helps protect your hand while you are holding the shell down. It helps reduce the chance of stabbing yourself in case your knife slips. Since my "accident," where I stabbed myself right in the middle of my left palm, I no longer shuck oysters in my hand. The little ridges on the board grip the oyster in place and it's able to accommodate even the largest of specimens. The image above shows an oyster that is at least 4 inches long!
When you're finished, the Half Sheller is easy to clean. I rinsed the excess debris off and wiped the surface with a wedge of lemon. Then I simply patted it dry with a dish towel. Afterward, it also served as a great holding tray. The circular trough is perfect for holding all kinds of shells upright. This is actually my favorite part about the Half Sheller. I've often been challenged with finding a quick and easy way to hold my oysters at home. When I try to lay them down on a flat surface, the unpredictable shell bottoms tend to tip and leak the precious liquid. With the Half Sheller, it's designed to accommodate all shapes and sizes so that they can all be kept upright and in place. By all sizes, I really do mean that!
In my photo below, I was only able to hold five large (4+ inch) Pacific oysters on the platter. The shape can also accommodate other types of finger foods including sushi. I would recommend using two Half Shellers at once to allow one for shucking and another for holding the oysters. Perhaps there could be an evolved design where you can store two boards together—like they can become interlocked to turn into one piece—doubling as a nice cheese board perhaps?
The form is very aesthetically pleasing. I am all for the minimalistic, modern design. The light maple-colored wood grain wraps elegantly around every curve and corner, like as if it were always meant to be made into a Half Sheller. The board feels sturdy but also light. The surface has been sanded down and smoothed into silk. One thing about this wood is that it's not like steel. Oyster shell is a tough substance so I did observe some wear on the ridges and middle island. It's minor scuffing, but just wanted to note that scratches will be expected. In fact, it's compact enough to travel easily. Travel to where? Maybe to say, Brooklyn?
Field Testing The Half Sheller
Yay, to Park Slope we go! Last weekend I had the pleasure of meeting Keith and Amy Swenson, the brother and sister team behind Righteous Foods, a purveyor of delicious live shellfish. They decided to throw a large-scale oyster party for their friends to kick off the fall. About 400 oysters were shucked and consumed, probably a good quarter by me alone. I brought the Half Sheller with me for Keith to try out.
Like mine, Keith's reaction was a positive one. He noted the added cleanliness brought on by the Half Sheller—less towels to muck up. The board worked well against a variety of oysters, both East and West coast. Since Keith prefers to shuck without a hand guard, the board was able to serve two purposes: protect his hand from a potential knife slip and slightly calmed the nerves of a few anxious spectators (including me).
After using the Half Sheller for awhile, I have to say that this is a great addition to my kitchen. It is very handy, versatile, beautiful, and would be a unique gift to give any oyster lover. I'm definitely going to continue to use and feature this board in my every day shucking life.
You can snag your own by contacting Littledeer directly to make a purchase. If you do buy one, I'd love to hear what you think of it!
Disclaimer: The Half Sheller was provided courtesy of Littledeer, but the opinions are mine.