We use cookies to allow us and selected partners to improve your experience and our advertising. By continuing to browse you consent to our use of cookies. You can understand more and change your cookies preferences here.

Home & garden.

When you click on a retailer link on our site, we may earn affiliate commission to help fund our not-for-profit mission.Find out more.

2 December 2021

Best nutcrackers

Find out which nutcrackers are durable and comfortable for cracking a wide range of nuts this Christmas
Joel Bates
Nutcracker on a box of nuts

The best nutcrackers make it simple, comfortable and satisfying to crack even the toughest of nuts, but all too often you can be left with a broken nutcracker and a sore hand. So which one should you buy?

In October 2021, we put 10 of the UK's bestselling nutcrackers from brands including OXO, ProCook, Ikea and John Lewis to the test see which ones make it easy and comfortable to crack a variety of hard-shelled nuts.

Our team of researchers got hands-on and cracked plenty of almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pecans and walnuts. We found big differences in how easy and comfortable the nutcrackers were to use, and some didn't make it through the tests without breaking.

Normally you can buy pre-shelled versions of these nuts, but at Christmas time supermarkets often sell mixed bags of nuts with the shells left on so you can enjoy the Christmas novelty of cracking them by the fire.

A good nutcracker has uses year-round, though - especially if you enjoy eating seafood as they're ideal for cracking the shells.

Find out which nutcrackers we think are the best to buy this Christmas, and see our advice on the different types of nutcrackers you can buy.

Prices and availability last checked: 02 December 2021.


Tips for living well - get our free Food & Health newsletter: shop savvy, eat well, stay healthy 


The best nutcracker from our test

Best Buy: Nutcracker Drosselmeyer

Cheapest price: £35.21 at Amazon

Type: Pliers-style

Pros: Easy to crack nuts, comfortable to use, mess-free

Cons: Expensive

Our verdict: It may cost more than you might expect to pay for a nutcracker, but the Drosselmeyer could well change the way you crack nuts forever.

Its name is a nod to the magician character in Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker,  and we felt a hint of magic in how easily it cracked nuts in our testing.

With what felt like remarkably little effort we were able to crunch even the toughest almonds and Brazil nuts, with no need to fiddle around with getting the right angle or applying a great deal of effort.

Testers commented on its robust metal design, with a compartment for the nut and a long lever on the outside that left no chance of catching fingers or unduly straining your hand during use.

The compartment also collected all the bits of shells and nuts after cracking, so we all enjoyed a mess-free experience.

Overall, we couldn't find anything to criticise about the Drosselmeyer. It was far and away the best nutcracker we tested.

How the rest of the nutcrackers fared

Here's how the rest of the nutcrackers we tested did in our tests, listed alphabetically.

Alessi Scoiattolo Nutcracker

Cheapest price: £67.20 at Amazon and John Lewis, also available at Alessi, Harrods

Type: Single lever

Pros: Easy to crack nuts, comfortable to use

Cons: Messy, expensive

Our verdict: As much a decorative piece as a nutcracker, the Alessi Scoiattolo is a very highly priced and perhaps too-effective nutcracker.

Our researchers had no trouble cracking any types of nuts during our tests, but the powerful lever-action of this nutcracker led the metal squirrel to pulverise the nuts into a fine paste rather than crack them.

Although we found the Scoiattolo comfortable to handle, the downward force required to crack the nuts also meant they often exploded, sending bits of shell and nut all over the place.

For this type of nutcracker you'll also need a surface to work on, so you won't be able to sit on an armchair by the fire while you use it.

Ankwenk Heavy Duty Nutcracker

Cheapest price: £9.99 at Amazon

Type: Pliers-style

Pros: Mostly mess-free

Cons: Struggles with certain nut types

Our verdict: Although we had no trouble cracking walnuts, pecans and almonds, the Ankwenk Heavy Duty Nutcracker had its work cut out with Brazil nuts, often needing several strong squeezes before they cracked.

Hazelnuts also proved problematic for our researchers due to the design of this nutcracker. The crushing chamber didn't come together tightly enough for us to crack any of the smaller nuts in our tests.

We did however find the wooden handles comfortable to use, and the compartment design was mostly able to catch all the bits of cracked nut and shell - a few smaller crumbs did fall out of the bottom, though.

Overall we think this nutcracker is decent choice for the price, but depending on which nuts you're cracking you might find yourself struggling with it.

Artcome Heavy Duty Nut Cracker

Cheapest price: £14.99 at Amazon

Type: Single lever

Pros: Comfortable handle, can be adjusted to suit different nut sizes

Cons: Finicky nut cracking, poor build quality, messy

Our verdict: Despite the messy results, this nutcracker worked well for us - when we got everything just right for it.

You can use a turn-screw on the left to change the width of the gap where the nut goes, but you also need to take the angle of the lever into account so you're getting enough purchase. It also helps to have the nut angled along the grain to help with ease of cracking.

Essentially it works, but only if you follow a very specific set of requirements.

During use we were also disappointed to find that the handle, although comfortable, was prone to rattling and appeared to be slightly bent after its first few uses.

It comes with a storage bag and a set of four picks you can use to scrape little bits of nuts and shells out of the nooks and crannies.

However, we often found that succeeding in cracking nuts resulted in the shells and nuts blasting around the room, not getting stuck in the nutcracker itself.

Ikea Ostkaka Nutcracker

Cheapest price: £5 at Ikea

Type: Pliers-style

Pros: Easy to crack nuts, cheap

Cons: Can make a mess

Our verdict: This cheap nutcracker from Ikea might have no frills, but our testers found it excelled at the all-important job of cracking nuts.

Despite its small size it's a weighty nutcracker, which we found helps with keeping a high level of control over it during use.

The rubberised grips on the handles also help you feel in control and less at risk of it slipping and catching your fingers.

The teeth were effective at holding a variety of nuts in place and we had no problems cracking any of the five nut types in our tests.

Due to its minimalist design, there is a chance you can make a mess. Some tougher nuts may explode when they give in and crack, so you may find yourself picking bits of nut and shell off the floor every now and again.

John Lewis & Partners Nutcracker

Cheapest price: £4.50 at John Lewis

Type: Pliers-style

Pros: Cheap

Cons: Struggles to crack tougher nuts, poor build quality, can make a mess

Our verdict: This was the cheapest nutcracker we tested, and we weren't very impressed by it.

Although we had no trouble cracking Brazil nuts and pecans, we found it impossible to crack almonds with this nutcracker and it soon started to bend from our efforts.

We also didn't feel especially confident using it as it rattled and didn't feel especially sturdy.

Like several nutcrackers of this type we tested, there's also a chance that tougher nuts will explode when you crack them, and there's nothing on this nutcracker to catch any bits that fall.

KitchenCraft BarCraft Traditional Nut Cracker

Cheapest price: £6.49 at Lakeland

Type: Pliers-style

Pros: Easy to crack nuts, cheap

Cons: Can make a mess

Our verdict: A basic but effective nutcracker that gets the job done despite lacking any notable design elements.

We didn't have too much trouble cracking any nut types with the BarCraft nutcracker, but we did find that aligning the grain of the nuts with the teeth helped with cracking some of the tougher nut such as almonds and Brazil nuts.

Our researchers didn't find it uncomfortable to use, but did note a lack of anything to make it more comfortable or controlled, for example rubberised grips or extra weightiness.

Nuts that explode from cracking will make a mess, but we didn't find this happened too often during testing.

OXO Seafood / Nut Cracker

Cheapest price: £15 at Amazon, John Lewis

Type: Pliers-style

Pros: Easy to crack nuts

Cons: Can make a mess

Our verdict: Although one of the pricier nutcrackers we tested, this OXO nutcracker was our favourite of the basic design.

We had no problem cracking a variety of nut types with it, and the teeth were especially effective at holding nuts securely in place during cracking.

Our testers commented positively on its weightiness and the extra control afforded to them by the rubberised grips on the handles.

As with all the nutcrackers of this type, there's a good chance you'll make a bit of mess with this one should some of the tougher nuts explode when cracked. This wasn't a regular occurrence in our tests, though.

ProCook Nutcracker

Cheapest price: £5 at ProCook (out of stock)

Type: Pliers-style

Pros: Cheap

Cons: Struggles to crack smaller nuts, can make a mess

Our verdict: This was a middling nutcracker.

It was effective at cracking most of the nut types we tried with it, but smaller nuts such as hazelnuts were often tricky to crack unless the grain was perfectly aligned with the teeth.

It wasn't uncomfortable for our testers to use, but we did note the lack of grip or weightiness and a slight rattle to the hinge at the top.

You might also make a mess with it depending on how forcefully the nuts crack. 

Wooden World Nutcracker

Cheapest price: £6.19 at Amazon 

Type: Turn-screw

Pros: Mess-free

Cons: Struggles with small or tough nut types, poor build quality

Our verdict: This was the only nutcracker that failed our tests - it broke halfway through.

We managed to crack every nut type except almonds and hazelnuts with this nutcracker, as it found the almonds too tough and the hazelnuts too small to reach.

It also takes some effort to twist the screw, especially when the nuts are tough to crack. Some nuts proved so resistant to this nutcracker that it snapped before it could succeed.

We also noticed when using it that the wooden screw wore away quite easily, resulting in the nuts we cracked being peppered with tiny bits of wood we wouldn't recommend eating.

On the plus side, the nut compartment collected everything which meant that we weren't picking up shards of shell from the floor, but sadly that was the only positive we could identify.

What types of nutcrackers can you buy?

Although the standard pliers-type nutcrackers are the most common and were the main competitors in our tests, there are several types to choose from.

  • Single-lever nutcrackers need a flat surface to work on, as they sit on an often wooden base with a metal lever used to pinch the nut until it cracks. When sturdily built, they are one of the strongest types of nutcracker, although the need for a flat surface and downward lever action means you won't be able to relax during cracking.
  • Turn-screw nutcrackers usually have a small compartment where the nut is placed, with a screw in the ceiling that, when turned, will slowly compress the nut until it cracks. They can be effective but are usually made from wood, which isn't the strongest material for tackling the tougher nut types.
  • Pliers style or V-shaped nutcrackers are very common and often basic products, with two arms that are squeezed together by the hand of the user. The pinch-point of the nutcracker is usually lined with teeth to help hold the nut in place.

Find out which types we recommend when it comes to choosing a top salt and pepper grinder.


What to look out for when buying a nutcracker

  • Find ones that take the strain off your hands - some nutcrackers we tested were hit and miss with tougher nut types, and often needed some real squeezing before they succeeded. Nutcrackers that are specially designed to apply a great deal of pressure on the nut with relatively little effort from you are ideal.
  • Avoid mess with nutcrackers that have compartments - tougher nuts can explode when they crack due to the force needed to break them. If your nutcracker doesn't have any sort of catcher or compartment, that's likely to lead to a messy experience.
  • Build quality is key - feeling comfortable, confident and in control is essential for stress-free nut-cracking. Go in-store to get your hands on the nutcracker and check on its build quality to avoid disappointment.

Kit out your kitchen with the best basic tools with our recommendations for vegetable peelers and chef's knives.


How we tested nutcrackers

We bought 10 of the bestselling nutcrackers available in the UK and pulled together a panel of Which? researchers to crack a variety of nuts and score each nutcracker on a range of key factors.

Ease of cracking

The Christmassy novelty of cracking the shells off nuts won't be at all enjoyable if your nutcracker struggles at its main task of cracking nuts.

To see how each nutcracker coped with this task, our panel used each nutcracker to crack several almonds, pecans, walnuts, Brazil nuts and hazelnuts, to ensure each nutcracker was tested against a variety of shapes, sizes and levels of resistance.

Nutcrackers that needed undue effort or failed to crack certain nut types were penalised, while the best nutcrackers breezed through and cracked every nut with ease.

Comfort

A nutcracker might be able to crack every nut type, but it still isn't worth recommending if it's uncomfortable to use and puts undue strain or friction on your hands.

Our panel, made up of a variety of ages, genders and strengths, commented on how comfortable they found each nutcracker to use during testing, and we factored these comments into our overall recommendations.

Mess

Some of the toughest nuts are prone to blasting bits of shell and nut all over the place when they finally give in and crack. This can not only waste nuts but can also spoil the enjoyment of nutcracking.

Some nutcrackers had handy design elements which helped keep mess to a minimum. They gained extra praise from our testers, none of whom are especially fond of unexpected cleaning jobs.


Weigh up your nuts accurately for baking with our picks of kitchen scales.