The Boston Stabber - Gastro Obscura

The Boston Stabber

This praised oyster shucker is as elegant as it is dangerous.

Prying open an oyster shell to reveal the sweet and briny core is no easy feat, especially considering there are countless varieties of shell shapes and sizes. According to Fred Carpenter, a knifemaker at Cape Cod Cutlery, there are more than 130 different kinds of oyster knives in the world, each subtly adapted to deal with a local bivalve and its obstinate shell. One such tool that has won over many a shucker for its form and function is the Boston Stabber.

Despite the blood-thirsty branding, the Boston Stabber (the “Boston” for short) is an elegant knife with beveled, dull edges, and a narrow blade, appreciated for its handle’s slender mid-section and thumb-stabilizing, bulbous ends. The knife fits in the palm comfortably, allowing for easy gripping, an especially important feature for professional shuckers, who may pry open more than 1,000 oysters per shift. Practiced shuckers deftly wield their knives, slipping the blade into the oyster shell, popping the hinge, and carefully sliding the knife to separate the adductor muscle, all while preserving the sweet liquid within and keeping shell “shrapnel” at bay.

Making a well-crafted Boston involves extra heating and cooling steps to ensure that the tip is strong and resilient, with the best high-carbon steel blades lasting a lifetime. Boston Stabbers can feature long blades for larger oysters, or sturdy, shorter blades. The latter fit inside screw top jars often used to measure and store the day’s harvest by those collecting in public oyster beds (where only the insides can be harvested and the shells must be left behind). Their handles also range from functional plastic or rubber to ornately handled works of art. Restrained or rococo, the Boston Stabber is as elegantly engineered as the oyster is extravagantly edible.

Where to Try It
  • Cape Cod Cutlery is open Monday and Wednesday 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Its tools, including the Boston Stabber, can be found at select Farmers' Markets throughout Cape Cod and trade shows throughout Massachusetts. Check their website for exact places and dates.