By now, everyone knows that nuts are super healthy—but they're also super annoying to open! While you could order shell-off nuts at the supermarket, you're going to pay a premium for those pre-peeled pecans. The easiest way to save your wrists (and wallet!) when shopping for nuts is to invest in a high-quality nutcracker. However, there are some nuts that even the finest nutcracker can't crush. If you've never used a nutcracker before, you've got to read our research on which nuts you should use in this device.
Traditional plier-shaped nutcrackers should always be able to crush the following nuts:
- English walnuts
- Hard-shell pecans
- Brazil nuts
Interestingly, many nuts are either too delicate or too tough for a standard nutcracker. To learn more about the proper technique for cracking fresh nuts, you've got to check out the tips below. Without further ado, let's get into it!
What Nuts Do You Need a Nutcracker For?
Most commercially available plier-shaped nutcrackers can crush nuts that have a moderately tough shell. The most famous varieties that should be OK in a standard nutcracker include English walnuts, almonds, hard-shell pecans, and Brazil nuts.
Sometimes, you could crack hazelnuts in a standard nutcracker, but most chefs find that's too aggressive. Instead, you could use a garlic press to remove your hazelnuts' outer shells while keeping the nut intact.
If you want a full breakdown of how to crack every nut known to humankind, then you've got to watch this popular YouTube video:
What Nuts Are Too Tough For A Standard Nutcracker?
Two nuts that are notoriously difficult to crack are macadamia nuts and black walnuts. Even if you have Schwarzenegger-level strength, most standard nutcrackers can’t handle these nuts. So, if you enjoy either of these nuts, you're better off placing them on a towel and (safely!) whacking them with a hammer.
Alternatively, there are now a few gadgets on the market designed to crack these nuts.
Could Decorative Wooden Nutcrackers Really Crack Nuts?
Wooden nutcrackers are a fabulous way to add Christmastime cheer to your home decor, but they aren't very functional. If you want a nutcracker that’ll get the job done, please don't rely on these wooden devices. While these traditional nutcrackers may work on almonds or tough-to-open pistachios, they may not be able to handle walnuts or hard-shell pecans.
Could You Crack A Chestnut In A Nutcracker?
Some nutcrackers claim they could handle chestnuts, but you don't need a nutcracker to prepare this nut. Since you can't eat chestnuts raw, most people simply score their chestnuts with a paring knife before boiling or roasting them. Once their chestnuts are done, you should be able to peel off the shell with your hands.
Watch this video guide for more info on preparing chestnuts:
That being said, there are special devices that will peel your chestnuts.
Could You Crack Acorns With A Nutcracker?
Believe it or not, more humans are stealing acorns from their neighborhood squirrels and eating them! But before you jump on this latest foodie fad, you need to crack those acorns with a hammer and towel. Most standard nutcrackers aren't strong enough to break through an acorn's outer casing.
After cracking your acorns, discard any that show signs of mold. Next, place your acorns in a pot of boiling water for 30 minutes and strain them before eating.
If you're skeptical about eating squirrel food, you've got to check out this TED talk:
Do You Need A Nutcracker For Pistachios?
You don't need a nutcracker to open pistachios. Generally, the shells are brittle enough so you could pull them apart with your fingers. There are also special "pistachio peelers" that can help you open those tougher nuts.
How Do You Use A Nutcracker?
Every nutcracker has a slightly different design, so it's best to review your manufacturer's recommendations before using it. However, here's a basic rundown of how to use a plier-shaped nutcracker:
- Place your nut in-between the curved ridges of your nutcracker.
- Close down on your nutcracker to secure the nut in place.
- When you're ready, squeeze the nutcracker until you hear the nut start to, well, crack!
- Take your nut out and peel off the shell with your hands.
Many standard nutcrackers have two ridges to accommodate different nut sizes (one small and one medium). If this is the case, please use the opening that best fits your nut variety.
If you're having trouble cracking your nut using the method above, you should take your nut out and rotate the shell. At some point, you should find a soft spot that will release the outer shell.
Did you know you could chop your un-shelled nuts with an immersion blender? To learn more about this topic, you've got to read this post: Can An Immersion Blender Chop Nuts?
How Do You Crack Almonds With A Nutcracker?
Almonds are one nut that every nutcracker should be able to handle. While your nutcracker may have unique specifications, here's the standard way to crack almonds with this device:
- Place your almond in the middle of your nutcracker's ridges so it fits snugly.
- Pull down on your pliers to secure the almond in place.
- Squeeze on the handles until you hear a snap or see the almond begin to crack.
- Take the almond out and remove the outer shell and skin.
It's worth mentioning you don't need a ridged nutcracker to crack an almond successfully. If you have a straight-edged nutcracker, that'll usually be enough to help you bust an almond's exterior shell.
For a video demonstration on how to crack an almond, be sure to watch this YouTube video:
What Are The Best Nutcrackers?
Choosing the best nutcracker depends on what nuts you like to snack on. However, the most versatile option is a plier-shaped nutcracker with two ridges for both medium and small-sized nuts.
This device should be made with a durable material like stainless steel and have a non-slip material on the handles. You want to be sure the nutcracker feels secure in your hands while you're applying pressure.
If you have wrist issues, then you should look into a mounted nutcracker that has a lever. These stationary devices allow you to press down on a lever to open your nuts rather than squeezing the handles together. Often, these devices could handle all the nuts listed in the intro.
What Could You Use If You Don't Have A Nutcracker?
There are many tools you could use instead of a nutcracker, but a few of the most common include:
- A hammer
- A rolling pin
- A chef's knife
- A garlic press
Which of these tools you use depends on what nut you want to crack. For instance, you should only use a hammer with incredibly tough nuts like macadamia nuts and black walnuts.
For most other varieties, you could try a firm whack on the side of a broad chef's knife (similar to opening a garlic bulb). For instance, many chefs have used this method on almonds, pili nuts, and English walnuts.
Speaking of English walnuts, many people say you could press these two guys together until you start to see them crack. Some chefs also use this trick for pecans and almonds, but it doesn't work too well for Brazil nuts.
Lastly, the garlic press works fantastic for both hazelnuts and pine nuts. Some chefs also recommend placing hazelnuts under a paper towel and whacking them with a rolling pin.
Get Crackin' With Your Newfound Nutcracker Skills!
A strong plier-style nutcracker can save you a ton of money if you love eating English walnuts, almonds, pecans, or Brazil nuts. You could also crush macadamia nuts and black walnuts at home if you opt for a higher-grade nutcracker. While the nutcracker may not be an "essential" kitchen tool, it's a fun way to add some "crunch" to your snack time.
By the way, if you're wondering whether it's safe to add nuts in a morning smoothie, be sure to read through this guide: Can You Put Nuts In A Blender?