Nuts are delicious and, thanks to the decade of embracing healthy fats, understood to be very nutritious, filling, and all-around good for you.
While you can eat them roasted, toasted, salted, or sugared, eating them raw is the purist’s preference.
There’s a reason for the age-old saying mocking a “tough nut to crack.” Most nuts are hard to crack. This is why nutcrackers exist, but they are found in a wide variety of styles and qualities.
Not every nutcracker works for every nut. Some nuts have hard shells, others are relatively soft. Some nuts are the size of a golf ball whereas others are only as big as a marble.
These variations in the nuts themselves sometimes require variations in the nut-cracking devices used to open them.
So what is the best kind of nutcracker? The best nutcrackers vary by type of nut they are designed to crack, however versatile options exist. A good nutcracker should be durable, comfortable to grip and and use, and safe.
In this article, we share our favorite nutcrackers and identify which one is best for specific hard-to-crack nuts. While most of the nutcrackers can be used on many different types of nuts, some are perfectly suited for individual varieties.
What is a Nutcracker?
Just so there’s no confusion, this article is not about Nutcracker dolls, the decorative toy soldier Christmas figurines prominently featured in German folklore, and made famous by the play, The Nutcracker. Though we like those, too.
Instead, in this article we are talking about the kitchen gadgets, tools, or devices designed for the sole purpose of cracking or shelling nuts.
Some people turn to their hammers but most of those who enjoy the sweet, rich flavor and creamy texture of a fresh, raw nut will use a tool designed specifically for cracking nuts.
There are many different kinds of nutcrackers.
Some are hand-held and resemble pliers or shellfish cracking tools. Others are vice-like, similar to what you might find in a mechanics workshop.
Nutcrackers: What to Look For
The nutcrackers on our list are some of the top-rated tools in America for cracking nuts, and they each have unique features that make them stand out from their competition.
When you’re searching for a nutcracker, there are a few things you want to be sure of:
Durability: Nutshells are hard. Nutcrackers need to be sturdy enough to stand up to a lot of hard work.
Comfortable Use: Many nutcrackers are hand-held and, even the ones that aren’t, require gripping and pressing on a lever.
Most people eat at least a handful of nuts at a time, so you’re going to want a lever that doesn’t tear your hand apart or give you hand cramps.
Safety: Because there is a lot of pressure involved in cracking nuts you want to be sure that the device is stable, sturdy, and isn’t accidentally going to crush your fingers instead of the nuts.
All the nutcrackers on our list are highly prized for their durability, relative comfort, and ease of use accomplishing safety.
7 Best Nutcrackers On the Market
To identify the best nutcrackers we researched different styles that worked for some of the hardest to crack and the most popular types of nuts eaten raw in North America.
Here’s our go-to list:
|1.||The Texan York Nut Sheller||Pecans|
|2.||Anwenk Heavy Duty Nutcracker||Black walnuts|
|4.||Magic Nutcracker Tool||Hazelnuts|
|5.||Get Crackin' Nut Cracker||Hickory nuts|
|6.||Anwenk Heavy Duty Nutcracker||Brazil nuts|
We’ve identified the best nutcrackers for delicate pecans, extremely hard black walnuts, crushable almonds, stiff and brittle hazelnuts, solid hickory nuts, very large Brazil nuts, and pre-cracked but not shelled pistachios.
So read on and let’s get cracking!
1. The Texan York Nut Sheller
Sometimes when you shell nuts, you don’t care how they come out of the shell. If you’re going to crush them anyways, it doesn’t matter.
But if you want, uncrushed nicely halved pecans, this nutcracker is the one for you.
It’s simple in design and usability, and the teeth allow you to trim the edges of your nut before cracking it, which creates a perfectly halved nut almost every time.
- Best nutcracker for pecans
- Unembellished design, easy to use, simply durable
- Cracks any softer shelled nut easily and cleanly
Biggest Drawback: Even though this nutcracker is easy to use and results in halved, not crushed pecans, trimming the ends of each nut is more time-consuming.
It’s a fantastic nutcracker for well-preserved nuts. But if you couldn’t care less about how many pieces of pecan you’re left with or how mixed up your nut meat and shells get, the extra step may be more frustrating than it’s worth for you.
2. Anwenk Heavy Duty Nutcracker
This is the first of 2 tools from Anwenk, a company that obviously knows how to crack a nut.
This heavy-duty tool is designed for nuts with harder shells, such as black walnuts.
It’s designed like a vice, with a strong handle that’s easy to tighten, pressing as much force against your nut as is necessary to crack it open. It’s an ingenious design, being both compact and very sturdy.
- Best nutcracker for black walnuts
- Works for all nuts, including those with hard shells like hazelnuts and macadamia nuts
- Comes with a collection box so you don’t have shells littering your entire home
Biggest Drawback: The design is compact and easy to use, but it can be awkward. First, you have you make sure your nut stays in place while you twist the screw, and you have to figure out how to stabilize it as you go.
Once you’ve got a working system, it works incredibly well, but it does have a bit of a learning curve.
3. Drosselmeyer Nutcracker
Though this nutcracker is made in Sweden, it’s named after the town in the famous Tchaikovsky play, Drosselmeyer from The Nutcracker.
The design is so revolutionary, it’s not only patented but it’s also won awards and the approval and admiration of Oprah herself. It may sound like an old character, but this baby is nothing but sleek, modern convenience.
There is enough force to release the hidden nut without pulverizing it, and a fantastic container to collect all the annoying shell pieces.
- Best nutcracker for almonds
- Handheld with dual lever cracking support and built-in collection container for the shells
- Easy cleaning and maintenance
Biggest Drawback: This nutcracker is perfect for soft-shelled nuts like almonds, which crack easily and into many pieces. It is limited in size, however. So large English walnuts don’t fit well inside, limiting you to the types of nuts you can crack with this tool.
4. Magic Nutcracker Tool
One of the things we love most about this nutcracker is that it was designed by the owners of a local housewares shop.
They took their 35 years of experience, customer complaints, and suggestions and put it to use in designing a “magic” nutcracker.
In other words, it has all the cracking ability of the best tools on the market but doesn’t create the hassle or mess that has traditionally gone hand-in-hand with nut-cracking.
- Best nutcracker for hazelnuts
- “Magic” design holds nuts in place to be cracked so that they don’t go flying and the shells are contained without making a mess
- Doubles as a lemon/lime juicer
Biggest Drawback: The design is nothing short of magical, but it’s made from aluminum, which is a soft metal. It may not hold up to the constant abuse of crushing shells quite as well as some of the competing crackers made from stainless steel or other more durable types of metal.
5. Get Crackin’ Nut Cracker
This nutcracker shows no mercy. It is a monster nutcracker and it will crack just about any nut – and in record time.
It’s not as pretty, or shiny, or stylish as some models, but it works as hard as you would expect an industrial-style piece of machinery to work. If you value function over form, you won’t be sorry.
- Best nutcracker for hickory nuts
- “V” shaped design allows for heavy-duty nut cracking of all sized nuts
- Arrives assembled and doesn’t need to be mounted to be stable and durable
Biggest Drawback: Some of the nutcrackers on this list come with containers for catching the shells as the nuts are cracked. This is not one of them.
The shells are prone to flying like tiny missiles being shot away from the nut as it cracks. Our best recommendation is to use this nutcracker inside a box or over a large bowl that can contain flying debris within a limited space.
6. Anwenk Heavy Duty Nutcracker
Cracking nuts isn’t always easy, but the Anwenk nutcracker is easier to use than many manual crackers, at least in part because it’s spring-loaded.
This particular nutcracker makes a great gift for anyone who loves to crack their own nuts, but may not have as much strength in their hands as they would like.
The cup-shaped holder is large enough even for Brazil nuts and standard English walnuts, as well as other nuts with thin shells like peanuts, hazelnuts, or almonds.
- Best nutcracker for Brazil nuts
- Spring-loaded with comfortable wooden handles
- Doubles as a bottle opener
Biggest Drawback: The spring-loaded design is the most defining feature of this nutcracker, but it’s also the weakest link.
Because of the extra moving parts, it can break apart more easily than some other styles of nutcrackers. But, until that happens or, better yet, if it never does, it will make quick work of your nuts!
7. PistachiOpener – Pistachio Nut Opener
Pistachios are a unique nut that doesn’t require cracking so much as wedging.
What you really need to free your tiny nut is a way to pry open an already cracked shell.
The Pistachio Nut Opener does just that, cleanly, in seconds. Just put your pistachio in the small bowl with the cracked side upwards, and hook the wedge tooth inside the shell and pinch the tweezer-like contraption together.
The shell pops off like magic!
- Best nutcracker for pistachios
- Designed by a dentist, which explains the resemblance to teeth cleaning utensils
- Works on any nut that has a visible slit or crack
Biggest Drawback: This PisachiOpener is very easy to use and pretty neat, but it only works on pistachios and other nuts that already have a visible crack for the tooth to fit into.
Most pistachios are cracked when you get them, but you will find the odd one that defies this tool.
How Do You Use A Nutcracker?
Every nutcracker works differently, so there are no universal guidelines.
If you buy a nutcracker, search for instructions on the packaging and, if you can find any, search for instructional videos referring to the specific types of nutcracker you purchased.
Most nutcrackers do have a few things in common, however:
For handheld nutcrackers, place the nut in the space provided to hold it in place. This might be a bowl-like shape or a hollow section with grips in a plier-like contraption. Press the handles together until the nut cracks.
For vice-style nutcrackers, place your nut on the platform provided and crank the thumbscrew until it hits the top of your nut, then continue to turn the screw until the nut is cracked open.
For nutcrackers that are similar to a lever press, simply place your nut inside the opened jaws of the device and then close it with force on the nut, careful to keep your fingers out of crushing range.
In addition to noting the many different styles of nutcrackers, you should also note that different nuts also need to be cracked differently.
Some nuts will pop open nicely if force is exerted in the right direction and others will simply smash into crumbles. There are many variables and you should always search for instructions for your specific nutcracker.
Can You Crack Nuts Without A Nutcracker?
If you don’t have a nutcracker, there are still a few options for getting the nutty flesh out of its seemingly impenetrable shell.
Many people use a hammer – and that is one viable option. If you choose to go this route we strongly recommend placing a cloth on top of a sturdy cutting board and clearing the room in case any pieces go flying.
Another option is to use a bench vice or possibly even a C-clamp. Many nutcrackers are modeled after these types of tools so try raiding your toolbox before doing any serious shopping.
Finally, if your nuts have any visible cracks along the shell and are easier to pry open, you can try to press down using the side of a butterknife. Or you can try to use it as a wedge to pry the nut open.
This doesn’t work well in very hard-shelled nuts like black walnuts or hickory nuts, but it’s very useful for pistachios.
Who Invented Nutcrackers?
Speaking about the tool used to crack nuts, and not the German toy soldier figurine, nutcrackers have been used throughout known history in one style or another.
Cavemen and women likely used stones.People in the Iron age probably struck rocks against anvils.
The plier-style nutcracker seems to date back to Ancient Greece at least. Plus, they were well documented by the 14th Century in England, being such a popular part of everyday life that they were mentioned in the literature of the time.
Vice-like nutcrackers became more popular during the 17th century, primarily in Europe still.
Spring-loaded nutcrackers were an American invention in the early 1900s. Since then, new designs have been popping up all over the world, with innumerable inventors to credit.
Up Next: Can You Freeze Almonds?