Chesapeake Stabbers: Murdering Oysters Since 1880

 Chesapeake stabber. Collection of Kate Livie.

Chesapeake stabber. Collection of Kate Livie.

Not all oyster knives are made the same. Although oysters are similar in shape and general appearance no matter where you go— only really varying in size and shell thickness— the knives for shucking them come in a whole array of shapes and sizes. That's because each region has developed its own way of prizing open an oyster. Here in the Chesapeake, we go in from the side. This technique, known as bill shucking, requires a knife that can coax open the narrow lip of an oyster's bill without breaking— and what's been created is known as the "Chesapeake stabber."

The knife above is a perfect traditional example. The bulbous handle provides a firm grip, while the delicate iron blade can nimbly pierce the thin seam between the oyster's two shells and detach the oyster's muscle without marring the meat.

It's a simple tool, really, but its beauty is in its supreme functionality. Developed in the 1880's, the style is timeless. Though fancier oyster knives exist (like this one or even this one- seriously??) sometimes, you just can't beat the classics.