The Future of Oyster Shucking – “Cryo-shucking” with Liquid Nitrogen

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Anjana Cryoshucking Oysters
Anjana Shanker gives us a tutorial on cryo-shucking.

You may have heard of cryo-blanching, but have you heard of cryo-shucking?

On our recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, we visited Nathan Myrvhold’s Modernist Cuisine lab. You may have heard of the 6 volume, almost $600 collection of books called Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking – well this lab in Bellevue, Washington is where that book and all of the fascinating science inside it originated. Larissa Zhou and Anjana Shanker invited us for a visit on a Saturday afternoon when the lab was relatively quiet. Zhou gave us a tour of all the machinery, the photography studio (see below) and of course the kitchen. Right around the corner from the 3-D printer, Shanker filled a metal container with liquid nitrogen to demonstrate cryo-shucking shellfish.

The idea is simple: plunge fresh oysters into liquid nitrogen for 15 seconds, take them out, allow to rest for 30 minutes and when the shells begin to open naturally, eat. The process is similar to when you cook mussels – when the meat begins to peer out of the shell, it’s ready to eat. Watch below for a quick 15 second instagram tutorial.

Shanker, who is a research and development chef at the lab described the process. “It releases the connective tissue inside the shell,” she explained. When shucking an oyster by hand, you can damage the oyster when you force open the shell. With cryo-shucking she says, “it’s so cold and it’s only for 15 seconds. It doesn’t damage the oyster – it’s intact and there’s no shell fragments on the oyster when you shuck it.”

She explains it in further detail below:

The Photography of Modernist Cuisine will be published shortly, and this is a coffee table book that just might justify the $100 price tag. During our tour of the lab, Zhou showed us how the photographs were shot. The premise involves cutting equipment – pots, pans, ovens, bowls – in half and gluing a crystal clear piece of Pyrex on the face of the equipment. The photographer is then able to shoot through the Pyrex to capture what is happening inside the pot, pan, bowl or oven. Check out these photos below of the halved equipment.

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A pressure cooker, cut in half with a Pyrex face.
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An entire oven was also cut in half for the book.