Shell bits in oysters?

My enjoyment of oysters is occasionally tempered by the discovery of small hard white bits. It’s not sand or grit, it’s too big. They almost seem like the kind of small smooth shell bits you see at the beach.

Are these a natural occurrence–not pearls but maybe some kid of secretion? Are they endemic to certain types of oyster? Or are they the byproduct of bad shucking that cracks bits off the shell?

It doesn’t happen that often but you really can’t enjoy an oyster with what amounts to rocks in it.

If it makes a difference, the last time I experienced this was with a variety of farmed NJ oyster called a Cape May Salt.

2 weeks ago I learned how to shuck oysters from the fish monger at my local supermarket ( he let me take the oyster knife home!) and with my inexperience shucking I got a lot of bits in my oyster. As I was the one shucking and eating I took the time to pick out the pieces. So yeah I think it is in the shucking.

When you open an oyster with a knife, small bits of the edge of the shell are sometimes broken off by the knife and forced inside. With particularly “tight-lipped” oysters, shuckers will sometimes break the edge of the shell with pliers or a hammer to make a small opening for the knife. That always causes bits of shell to find their way inside.

Thanks for the replies.

Are particular varieties more “tight lipped” than others?

Also, if you got oysters with shell in a restaurant, would you send them back–or is it on a par with a little bit of gristle in meat, something you have to put down to living in an imperfect world?

I would never dream of sending them back, Part of the deal. If there’s a lot I might mention it, but I am sucking them down.

I’ve found that the fresher the oysters, the harder they are to open. When I worked at a restaurant, oysters were always easier to open the day after they were delivered.

We once sat at the raw-bar at Acme Oyster House in New Orleans, eating oysters and watching the shuckers. The man working by the window had been there 40 years. His oysters were pristine, and he was incredibly fast. The guy next to him had worked there about a year. He was slower, but still produced a nice tray. Then there was a guy who had just started. He was scary to watch. We had a dozen of his oysters and they were pitiful, but we ate them.

Sounds like “Hollywood.”


When you’re shucking your own oysters, you can rinse them and flush out shell bits, but you’ll also rinse away all the good oyster liquor. So i pick out the biggest fragments and just swallow the teenier bits with the oyster. You get a good dose of calcium that way.