"In New York they use a board, but I do it in my hand," says Robert Daffin, who shucked his first oyster at age eight and has won shucking championships in Alabama, Louisiana, and his native Florida. He has also admittedly put a knife through his palm accidentally. "Try this way," he says about the tips below.
Put a dishrag on a table and fold it over. Place the oyster on the dishrag cup side down, with the hinge sticking out. Fold the rag over the top of the oyster and grip it.
Gently insert the tip of your oyster knife into the hinge. Don't try to shove it, or you'll break the shell and mangle the oyster (or, like Daffin, earn a free trip to the emergency room).
Gently wiggle the knife back and forth until the hinge pops. Don't get impatient, or the shell (often more brittle with farmed oysters) could crack. Run the blade around the edge to open.
Scrape the blade along the underside of the top shell to cut the connecting muscle; discard top. Then scrape the edge of the knife under the meat to cut the bottom muscle. Now eat!
• A Shucker's Guide to Oysters