Opening oysters by sound

There's a great piece of information almost buried in the article about Spanish chef Ángel León in the October Gourmet (which is awesome, btw). Chef León isn't just a chef, but also a scientist/inventor (what chef isn't in Spain these days?) and while watching a documentary on Pompeii, he came up with a great invention:

He remembers hearing...that when the volcano blew in A.D. 79, millions of shellfish in the coastal waters around Pompeii were forced open by shock waves from the explosion. This idea sent León back to the laboratory, where he came up with a device for opening oysters by means of low-frequency sound waves. The oysters are placed in a bain-marie six at a time, and at the touch of a button their shells loosen their iron grip. No more digging about with knives is required; no nasty bits of shell are left in your oyster.

I tried to poke around a bit on Google for some information about this but didn't find anything. I'm curious about the effect of the sound waves on the shellfish. Are they killed by the waves, and in death they're opening their shells? Or are they still alive but opening their shells? Even if you use this method for shellfish shucking, you still need to detach the oyster from the shell for easy slurping. But I find this whole thing fascinating. I wonder if we'll see this method spread at all. It might be too expensive and slow. After all, the world's fastest shucker can open 33 oysters in a minute.

There are 4 responses

This method for opening oysters sounds like it has great potential. Having schucked many oysters by hand over the years, I'm waiting in anticipation of this technology. Nice post! chefjp

If the oysters must be submerged when they open, don't we lose, or at least dilute the liqueur?

Hmmm, I assumed they weren't totally submerged Lawrence. You raise an excellent point.

Have you ever hummed to snails? -- If you hold a periwinkle in your hand and hum, the vibrations coax it out of its shell. Snails aren't exactly oysters, but it's likely that snails and bivalves both react to vibration by relaxing their muscles. Also: possibly the oysters don't open, they just relax enough to make it easy to slip a knife in...?

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