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Heavy duty nutcracker for Black Walnuts

Can anyone recommend a heavy duty nutcracker for shelling black walnuts, or offer any tips on how to remove the hulls and shells?

I have a friend in MN who has lots of black walnuts dropping from his trees, but just throws them away as they are messy and the shells are really hard, so I'm hoping the chowhounds know of a good method for him. I hate to see nuts go to waste.

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  1. I have always found that a small sledgehammer, hatchet, a brick or the front tire of a large car seems to do the best job when cracking black walnuts is the task at hand.

    Be sure to wear thick leather gloves with latex liners underneath, or you will have hands stained with the sepia dye that comes from them and it lasts for weeks. Safety glasses are also required.

    there was a similar thread about black walnuts on the home cooking(?) board about 1 month ago.

    PS, Please remeber to crack a few for your local squirrel population, as I have even seen my local tree-rats :) give up after trying to open black walnuts.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Kelli2006

      I think it was my post re eating walnuts off a streetside tree. They are still sitting on my kitchen counter, but I have thoroughly enjoyed all the horror stories about cracking black walnuts!


    2. Our squirrels have absolutely no problem eating these nuts. You can hear them up in the trees, gnawing away at them all day long - it's a pretty funny sound, louder than you'd expect.

      I agree - sledgehammer. That's all that works. But make sure you de-husk them first (take off the green part) and let the nuts cure for several weeks before eating. The nuts need time to dry and solidfy inside the shells. They're tasty, I guess, but honestly waaaay too much work for me to deal with. Which is sad because we're just drowning in them this year.

      1. Channel-lock pliers work great.

        1. Nyleve has it right about the husks. After we dry them, we crack them in a vise and throw them in a bucket. After that,we pick them out while watching bad tv shows so we don't have to feel guilty about watching--can't admit the bad tv I like.

          1. http://www.reednutcracker.com/

            I just picked one of this up a couple of week's ago in a hardware store in New Hampshire.

            Then last weekend, I see that Cooks Illustrated rated it best by far in the Nov/Dec issue.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Karl S

              Call me a party pooper but no freaking way would that gizmo - not even the more expensive one - work on black walnuts. They are something else altogether. The only place you can buy a tool to crack those things is at, like, Home Depot or a heavy equipment dealership. Like I said, a sledgehammer or, better yet, a pneumatic drill.

              1. re: Karl S

                It specifically says English walnuts, and the other one says soft nuts, neither of which applies to black walnuts.

              2. I have a Hunts Black Walnut cracker. This thing could split a diamond if you apply enough pressure. I bought it mostly for apricot and peach pits. The design is simple yet very, very effective.

                7 Replies
                1. re: bigmackdaddy

                  Peach pits???? What do you do with a bunch of nuts from the peach pits? I know they are edible and occasionally pop one in my mouth when I have an over ripe peach and it easiy falls apart, but from your reply it sounds like you do this a lot and in quantities much larger than I just mentioned, so now I'm wondering...

                  1. re: Jambalaya

                    It's all about the laetrile my friend. Preventive medicine. Sometimes I bake them with a little salt on top as well.

                    1. re: bigmackdaddy

                      Wow, I do healthy and herbs,veggies,fruit etc. but this is new to me.. What is this good at preventing so I will know if I need to add to my routine. Have to do the Dr's job for them as they only attempt to keep you alive after you are ill. Preventive is not in their vocabulary.

                  2. re: bigmackdaddy

                    Hi, was convinced I NEED this by your reply.. But now I am wondering why you would crack peach and apricot seeds???? I am really intrigued by this thought as I have never even thought about using them for anything.

                    1. re: gigi9022

                      I forgot all about this thread. Most seeds/stones/ pits have an edible pith (I think that's the word). When I posted my reply it was a little over a year after my mom died from cancer. I was so paranoid about the genetic thing that cracking fruit seeds was only one of the things I was doing. Supposedly, apricot kernels and most fruit kernels help the bodies' cancer preventing cells, healthy. But so does fruit like blueberries, strawberries and so on. Most health food store sell whole roasted apricot kernels in pre-packaged bags. Hunza something brand. I would say before you start cracking pits for health benefits only, do some research. On both sides: The nut-jobs who go Western traditional and the wing-nuts who believe in homeopathy. If however, you're looking for a unique taste then by all means crack away. Try roasting them with some salt.

                      1. re: gigi9022

                        My grandmother always added a couple to every jar of peach preserves she made - and that was A LOT. I do the same. However, the FDA says the are poisonous, with the kernels containing the highest concentration of cyanide. To my knowledge no human deaths have been reported, but I have read that hogs and cattle have died after eating fallen peaches pit and all.

                        As bigmackdaddy said, you probably want to do your own research on both sides of the subject.

                      2. re: bigmackdaddy

                        Chiming in late here: the French call those pits noyau and use them to add a bitter almond flavor to desserts, e.g.:


                        In those amounts they're not toxic enough to be unhealthy, but in large quantities they have killed people:


                      3. I have the reed nutcracker and it works beautifully.

                        On everything EXCEPT Black Walnuts.

                        For the black walnuts, I've used a shop bench vise, with a pipe extension on the handle, for extra torque control to crack them gently once they reach the right pressure. Put a catch pan below the vice. Then comes the picking session (TV football season), with a high percentage that need to go back to the vice for closer work.

                        On the initial crack, put pressure on the north and south pole.

                        Be sure that they are good and dry, with husk removed. Husk removal is best done with a car driving over them on a concrete or gravel driveway.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: FoodFuser

                          Just broke that reed nutcracker (new from amazon)on the first nut I tried.. They advertise it for that use and my husband warned me it would not work. I am going to give him your idea to see if he can make something up to crack them for me. I hauled them back from N.C. as I live in Ca and have a tree here but i must need 2 or it doesn't get cold enough as it is 11 years old and still pretty and with out nut.s

                          1. re: gigi9022

                            I've been thinking of buying the hard shell nutcracker from Lehman's for cracking black walnuts. It's getting good reviews.

                            1. re: earthygoat

                              A large C-clamp that is available at a home center works just as well and it's a lot cheaper then Lehman's.

                          2. re: FoodFuser

                            You can use vice grips - aka mole grips in the UK. They'll crack anything and don't suffer from the sudden total nut destruction that plague 'unrestricted' tools like channel locks, pliers and hammers.

                            1. re: FoodFuser

                              my father used a vise many years ago to crack those beasts

                            2. A second vote for the car tire. No kidding. Put the hulled and cured nuts in a big cloth bag , then in a heavy plastic bag and drive your car over them (may take a couple of passes, and may not work with a subcompact car). Try not to do this in your own driveway because there can be staining.

                              1. I've used the Drill Cracker to rip the hulls off black walnuts and then several weeks later I use it to crack them.

                                1. Just want to say this thread cracked me up. We had a black walnut tree in the yard (or on the property line with neighbor) when I was growing up, and it dropped those damn green things all over. I sent them flying with the lawnmower a couple times. Not sure the blade usually cracked them though. ;-) The smell is not particularly good either

                                  If we still had that house today, I might be inspired to try to use the things! I wonder if the tree is even still there? Maybe someone made black walnut furniture instead. ;-)

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: CrazyOne

                                    Is THAT was I have? The darn green nuts are all over the place and the squirrels enjoy knawing at them and then, basically, throwing them into the yard and on my roof! I couldn't figure out how the green shell fit in with the dried "leftovers" we'd find on the lawn. I found that these stupid nuts dropped from late August - while we still had to mow the lawn - for a few weeks. The insides look like the walnuts we all know. Well, we won't ever enjoy them, the creatures get to them before I'd even know what to do with them.

                                    Like the plum tree - chewy monsters they are.

                                  2. I've been cracking around 500-800 pounds of Black walnuts per year
                                    for the last ten years ! The Hunt cracker is far superior to any other
                                    cracker or method I've tried !! Ed Fickel Logan, OH 43138

                                    1. This has been a banner year for black walnuts. Our house is completely surrounded with the trees - also the woods nearby. Just walking the dog along the trail it feels like I'm going through a war zone with grenades falling all around. I haven't yet been bonked yet but the season isn't over. Our garage (and my husband's studio) is under a rather prolific walnut tree and every time one of those things falls it sounds like a boulder has landed on the roof. It's hard to walk without breaking an ankle. I leave the nuts for the squirrels - a sad waste, yes - because they're just too much work to get out of the hulls and then pick out of the rock-hard shells. I know it's stupid and that people pay good money for these things but I mean really - I just don't have that kind of time. Anyway squirrels have to live too.

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: Nyleve

                                        no nutcracker needed-- just put them in the space between a door and the wall (where the door hinge is) and close the door until the shell cracks. works great on stone crab claws too.

                                        1. re: barleywino

                                          Wow. I am definitely going to try that. Will report.

                                          1. re: Nyleve


                                            And not a good report either.

                                            Not only didn't the above-described technique NOT crack the walnut, but it also managed to pull the door hinges right out of the frame AND leave an impression of the nut shell in the wood (this was really just egregious). I now have to get my husband to re-attach the door before we go to bed tonight or else we'll have to sleep with the door open. I can't tell him how it happened - I'll pretend I have no idea. Hopefully he won't notice the walnut mark in the door frame. Thanks, barleywino.

                                            1. re: Nyleve

                                              wow, i'm truly sorry to hear that! also quite surprised. what can I say... i always strive to give helpful and accurate advice but i guess this time i fell short. my sincere apologies.

                                              1. re: barleywino

                                                I didn't mean to sound bitter. I'm really not. I tried this method knowing the risks. And really - it's not such a big deal. We have a screwdriver. (And besides, what are husbands for, anyway?) So no hard feelings whatsoever.

                                                But honestly - can you believe this? That freaking nut actually took the door right off its hinges!

                                                1. re: Nyleve

                                                  Hmmm...I wonder whether your car door would work? (just kidding!)

                                                  1. re: barleywino

                                                    NOOOOO! My husband can repair the door but not the car. (Would insurance cover this type of damage, I wonder...)

                                      2. I remember when I was very young a cabinet-maker my dad used to hang out with had a forest full of black walnut trees. When harvest season arrived, he would haul truckloads of these behind his shop, let them dry and *pow* really, really hot burning fuel for his woodstove. Smelled so good while on fire too.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Ninevah

                                          Heck yes, in his woodstove,
                                          I'd bet that they sizzled

                                          Burned fuel's a good use for these rapscally rascals.
                                          So hard to shell.

                                          Thus our discussion.

                                          Extraction of nutmeat from hardy black walnuts
                                          is reason for kudos of culinary feat.

                                        2. A friend of mine has a Hunt's and loves it. Although I'm not wanting to bust the $100 mark to buy one, as a result here are two that I am considering. Both are made in the USA, which was very important to me and both have reviewed well. The Kenkel's price varies depending on the retailer $50-65 and the Master Nut is $60 on their website or $77 on Ebay. If any one has either of them I would appreciate some feedback. Thanks! David

                                          Kenkel Hard nut cracker
                                          Best price: www.redhillgeneralstore.com/houseware...

                                          Master Nut Cracker


                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: david276

                                            We have the Kenkel Har nut cracker. We used it to crack 7 5 gallon buckets of the nuts. WOW! My father-in-law gathered black walnuts in the fall and made the best cookies plus gave some to each family to eat or use as we wanted. He would have gone 'nuts' with this cracker. He must have cracked a pick up truck full of nuts every fall. I have to say we really love it. The nut pieces are way bigger than if we used a rock and a hammer, which we used to do. I highly recommend it.

                                            1. re: lukr2

                                              Thanks for your input. In the past I have used a hammer and diagonal pliers or a hammer and a hatchet. Looking for a easier and faster way.

                                          2. Hello
                                            I love black walnuts and i use a Knipex 8603180 7" pliers wrench or 10" if your not strong in your hands, as this is a leveraged wrench set the nut so it fits horizontal, adjust the wrench so that wrench in the up position about 2 mm higher than the nut, give it a little squeeze until the shell breaks and usually it will break in two to four pieces , then use your side cutters.This works great for me and i'm sure you will like this wrench in your toolbox as it doesn't silp.