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Published November 2011

How we tested

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.

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The Results


Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.


Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.


Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.


Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.


Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.


Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.