Safety Tips for Smoke's Oyster Shucking Contestants

If attendees at Foodways' Texas first-ever Dallas event at Smoke tonight are able to rouse themselves from their chairs after feasting on Tim Byres' lengthy menu of gumbo, roasted oysters, raw oysters, grilled shrimp and fried fish, they can compete to shuck the most oysters in one minute - and they're not even obliged to eat what they liberate.

The world record for oyster shucking, set last summer by Toronto restaurant owner Patrick McMurray, is 38. Entrants in tonight's contest are unlikely to approach that total, but shucking experts say amateur shuckers can increase their speed by following a few simple rules.

"Get a good knife," advises Doug Shields, manager of S & D Oyster Company.

S & D uses oyster leads, curved pieces of lead that allow shuckers to brace an oyster while pressing down on a hard surface. But if lead's not an option, a sharp knife helps speed up the shucking process, Shields says.

Smoke is supplying the knives for tonight's contest, so - just like at the Go-Kart track -- savvy shuckers will want to survey the line-up for the best equipment before the stopwatch starts.

Smoke's also providing gloves, and Shields suggests wearing them. A shucker who isn't distracted by the threat of bodily harm is likely to work more quickly.

"Just be careful with the knives," Shields says.

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