Published November 1, 2011. From Cook's Illustrated.
Nutcrackers can give your hands a workout and test your patience as you pick shells out of crushed nutmeats. We were after one that just did its job.
Whether you’re cracking a few nuts for a snack or shelling a cup or more for a recipe, nutcrackers can give your hands a workout—and test your patience as you pick shells out of crushed nutmeats. Five years ago we chose the Reed’s Rocket ($29.99) nutcracker as our favorite: It’s an innovative tabletop model that uses a lever to easily crack and remove shells without pulverizing the contents. Since then, new models have come on the market. We tried four—priced from $14.99 to $35.99 and including another lever-style cracker, two variants on the traditional V-shaped style, and one resembling a jar with a crushing post attached inside the lid—and pitted them against our favorite. We used them to crack a full range of typical nuts, from tiny round hazelnuts and rock-hard Brazil nuts to softer pecans, walnuts, and almonds.
After choosing testers of different sizes and hand strengths, we evaluated the different crackers on their ease of use and ability to crack all nut types while leaving the nutmeats intact. For the ultimate test, we timed how long it took to crack and shell 1 pound of walnuts with each cracker. The V-style crackers took a great deal of effort and tended to crush the nuts into small pieces; the jar-style cracker was slow (and some said difficult) to twist, although after shells flew around the room when we used other crackers we appreciated that it kept the mess in the jar. The two lever-style crackers were quickest and did the best job at leaving the nuts whole.
The clear winner's extra-long handle made the hardest nuts easy to crack, leaving the meat intact. It required no adjustment when we changed the type of nut, and it didn’t scatter shells everywhere (unlike our former favorite). Best of all, it cracked a pound of walnuts in record time.