Best Nutcrackers

Updated July 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

17 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
281 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best nutcrackers

Last Updated July 2020

From almonds to walnuts, there are lots of healthy and tasty nuts for you to choose from. Unfortunately, many of them are pretty stubborn about coming out of their shells. The solution is a good nutcracker, and you would think choosing one would be easy ... until you look at the number of options on the market. Trying to pick the right one is enough to drive you nuts!

What to look for? For one thing, a nutcracker’s mechanism is of ultimate importance. Walnuts are tough to crack, for example, but it’s not unusual to find people who can open them with their bare hands. That’s impressive, but while some physical strength is required, you don’t need to be superhuman to crack a nut; the mechanism also matters.

When it comes to the crunch, BestReviews has the information you need. From traditional favorites to the latest creative and quirky devices, we will enlighten you as to what’s available in the nutcracker realm and what to look for.

Mechanical nutcrackers are thought to originate from the Ore Mountains in Germany and were originally hand carved. They eventually became nutcracker dolls — the subject of the famous Russian ballet.

Key considerations

Mechanism

Basic nutcrackers are handheld models with hinges. They look a lot like pliers, and thanks to their low price and reasonable effectiveness, they have stayed on the market for a long time. However, basic nutcrackers mandate an “all-or-nothing” approach that requires significant force yet offers no control. The result is often a nut that’s mashed beyond recognition and pieces of shell all over the place.

Various alternatives to the basic nutcracker have been developed. The first is a nutcracker with a large-diameter screw thread and a chunky handle or knob. It’s simple, effective, and very powerful, and the user is in control: just wind the handle until the shell splits.

The second uses some kind of leverage to drive a crushing action. These range from nutcrackers with strong, pinching jaws to nutcrackers that drive a piston. Many nutcrackers of this type are designed to rest on or be permanently affixed to a surface rather than being held in the hands.

There is one more type of nutcracker, in which nuts are dropped into a hopper and crushed between two rollers. (Power source: a hand crank or a power drill). This design is most often seen on commercial machines. Unfortunately, many consumer versions are neither as large nor as effective as you might hope, and they are also surprisingly expensive.

Note: Not all nutcrackers can tackle all kinds of nuts. A manufacturer may or may not inform you of this on the packaging.

Materials

The first nutcrackers were made of wood, and wood remains a popular choice for the body and handles, but the mechanism is usually made of metal. Many of today’s nutcrackers are also made of steel. Steel is tremendously strong, yet it costs little to manufacture. A nutcracker made of normal carbon steel needs a protective coating of chrome, nickel, or another material to prevent rust.  Stainless steel doesn’t need a protective coating because it naturally resists corrosion.

You’ll find nutcrackers made of aluminum, too. It’s lighter than steel, and it doesn’t rust. However, it doesn’t have the same structural strength as steel. If the lever components of a nutcracker are made of aluminum, be sure to test it (or gather feedback from someone who has used it) before buying.

The exoskeleton of a nutcracker may feature areas of rubber or soft plastic. These grippy materials are sometimes used to improve grip and prevent the user’s hands from touching cold metal.

Appearance

Nutcrackers come in a vast array of styles, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding something that suits you. There are a few things you might want to take into consideration before buying.

  • Basic handheld nutcrackers are compact and easy to stash in a drawer or picnic basket.
  • Some mechanical devices make a certain stylistic statement. You might wish to display your nutcracker rather than tuck it away. If you eat a lot of nuts, it’s particularly convenient to have one mounted in the kitchen.
  • Some of the more complicated mechanical nutcrackers have lots of nooks and crannies where nut bits can hide. If you don’t want the hassle of a difficult cleaning session, opt for a nutcracker advertised as easy to clean.
  • The majority of nutcrackers are inexpensive enough that you could buy two or more without breaking the bank.
EXPERT TIP

Most nutcrackers require some physical force to operate, but how much depends on the mechanism. This aspect is of particular concern for those with reduced physical ability.


Staff  | BestReviews

Collectible nutcrackers

Most experts seem to agree that nutcrackers were first made in Germany as far back as the fifteenth century. These nutcrackers were carved by hand out of wood. Over the years, they became more decorative. Beginning in the seventeenth century, nutcracker dolls began to appear.

Today, collectible nutcrackers are more popular than ever. Along with traditional nutcracker figures, you’ll also find some designed with more modern themes, including favorite cartoon and film characters.

DID YOU KNOW?

Botanically, peanuts, cashews, pecans, walnuts, almonds, and pistachios are not actually nuts. They are called drupes and are technically the stone of a fruit. Hazelnuts and chestnuts are true nuts formed from the hardened ovary of a fertilized flower.

Nutcracker prices

Inexpensive: You can find cheap nutcrackers for $5 or $6. While there’s nothing wrong with the design, low-quality manufacturing could mean the item wouldn’t last long. The top hinge can be a weak point, and if it snaps under pressure, you could hurt your hand. Well-made versions only cost around $10, so it hardly seems worth the risk.

Mid-range: The majority of high-quality nutcrackers cost between $10 and $30, though you’ll find one or two for as much as $50. Within that price range, you will find a device for just about every nut-cracking method imaginable.

Expensive: Those nutcrackers that do exceed $50 are seldom intended to crack nuts. Usually, the nutcrackers in this price bracket are high-quality decorative nutcrackers. Hand-made collectibles from makers like Steinbach and Ulbricht easily cost $100 or more. Limited editions can top $750.

EXPERT TIP

Standard steel lever nutcrackers might look basic, but they also come in handy for opening lobster and crab claws. This is not something many other nutcracker models can do.


Staff  | BestReviews

Other products we considered

Anwenk’s Heavy-Duty Nutcracker has terrific power for all those hard-to-crack nuts, and the cup helps prevent bits of shell from going everywhere. The handles are wooden for extra comfort. This nutcracker is strong, easy to use, and very affordable.

The EFO Wooden Nutcracker Mushroom is a delightful piece and remarkably efficient. Just pop in the nut and turn the wooden screw until it cracks. There is no danger of crushing the contents to pulp. It comes with a lifetime warranty, too.

If you’re looking for decorative or collectible nutcrackers, look toward the manufacturer Kurt Adler. This company makes a lot of fun nutcracker designs, including a Darth Vader Nutcracker holding a small Death Star. Some people absolutely love it.

Don’t just throw nutshells away. They can be added to the compost heap, used as drainage in plant pots, or added to a wood stove fire for a quick boost. Don’t add them to open fires, though; they have a habit of exploding and could jump out.

FAQ

Q. Which is the hardest type of nut to crack?
A.
According to our research, it’s the macadamia nut, which require a pressure of up to 300 pounds per square inch. However, while they can be eaten raw, they’re much easier to open when roasted. Done slowly, most of the nutritional value is retained.


Q. Can I use Steinbach or Kurt Adler nutcrackers to actually crack nuts?A. We don’t recommend it. The original German designs, which date back hundreds of years, were fully functional and had jaws strong enough to crack local walnuts. However, while today’s models still move, they don’t have the same strength and are made more for decoration.
 

Q. Are there any nuts that are poisonous?
A.
Almonds contain cyanide, but an adult would need to eat well over a thousand in a single day for the nuts to be lethal, and that’s if they’re raw. Cooked almonds are safe.

Raw cashews contain the same toxin as poison ivy and poison oak (urushiol) and can cause skin irritation. They are potentially deadly if ingested in large quantities. However, like almonds, they are safe when roasted or steamed.

Nut allergies are a whole different subject, and very complex. If you think you’re a sufferer, consult a medical professional as soon as possible.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bob
    Bob
    Writer
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor

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