How to Shell Pecans

Three Parts:Preparing the PecansCracking and Shelling the PecansCleaning and Storing the Pecans

Whether you plan to eat them plain or roasted, or use them in your favorite pecan pie recipe, pecans must be shelled and cleaned before use. Start with Step 1 below for detailed instructions on how to extract the nut meats from their tough, woody shells.

Part 1
Preparing the Pecans

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    Harvest or buy some in-shell pecans. Choose a variety that is uniform in size and shape, and feels heavy in your hands. Stuart or Moneymaker pecans are two common and popular varieties.
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    Sort the pecans. Sort through the pecans and dispose of any that have cracks or holes, that feel considerably lighter than the others, or that rattle when you shake them. These nuts have likely gone bad.
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    Consider boiling the pecans. Some pecan-lovers claim that boiling the pecans before cracking helps to loosen the shells.
    • Bring a large pot of water to the boil on the stove top. Gently add the pecans to the water and leave to boil for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain the pecans and leave to cool before cracking.
    • Alternatively, you can place one cup of water and two cups of pecans in a microwaveable bowl and heat on high for 5 to 6 minutes.
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    Set up your work area. Shelling pecans can be a messy job, as bits of shell are likely to fly everywhere during cracking. As a result, it may be best to set up your work station outside, to minimize clean-up.

Part 2
Cracking and Shelling the Pecans

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    Use a nutcracker. A general purpose, squeeze-style nutcracker can be used to crack the pecan shells.
    • Place the nut between the arms of the nutcracker and squeeze gently until you hear a crack. Don't squeeze too hard, or you will break the nut meat inside.
    • Rotate the nut between the arms of the nutcracker and squeeze again. Continue rotating and squeezing along the length of the nut until the shell becomes loose enough to remove.
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    Use a side cutters and pliers. This is another quick and easy method for shelling pecans, which uses a side cutters and pliers.
    • Take your side cutters and use them to snip off the two pointed ends of the pecan shell, into a bowl beneath.
    • Then take your pliers (any type will do), place the nut between the jaws, and gently crack around the middle of the shell, rotating the nut until the shell comes loose.
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    Use a specialized pecan cracker. If you need to crack a large quantity of pecans, it may be worth your while to invest in a specialized pecan cracker, which looks kind of like a tabletop vice.
    • These devices allow you to crack pecans quickly and efficiently, without cracking or breaking the nut meat.
    • While most household pecan crackers are operated by hand, you can also purchase motorized pecan crackers (from brands like Kinetic Kracker) for even faster shelling.
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    Squeeze two nuts together. If you do not have any tools, you can use the squeezing method to crack the pecan shells.
    • To do this, take two nuts and place them in one hand. Close your fist around the nuts, squeezing them together until one shell cracks enough to peel off.
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    Use a hammer. One of the simplest methods of cracking pecan shells is just to use a hammer and a hard surface.
    • Place the nut on a hard, solid surface and hit it with the hammer. You may need to rotate the nut to hit it in a second spot. Mind your fingers!
    • Although this method is quick, it tends to break the nut meat, leaving you with fragmented pieces of pecan. If you're looking for whole pecan halves, you'd be better off using another method.
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    Remove the nut meat from the shell. Once you have cracked the shell using your chosen method, you will need to carefully remove the nut meat from the broken shell, keeping the pecan halves as intact as possible.
    • Use your fingers or a small pair of pliers to peel the shell away from one half of the nut. Then use a nut pick to pry the two pecan halves out of the remaining shell.
    • Pecans are ideally removed from their shells in halves, but it's not a big deal if they break -- any nut meat you can salvage from the broken shell is usable.

Part 3
Cleaning and Storing the Pecans

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    Clean off any shell material. Use a pick, a toothpick, or even a narrow piece of pecan shell to scrape the woody shell material and lining from the fissures in the nut meat. Even a small amount of this material left in the nut can leave a bitter taste in the mouth of the person who consumes it.
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    Leave the pecans in a perforated container or a colander for 24 hours. This will allow the nuts to dry out and season, giving them a better flavor when eaten.
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    Store the pecans in a sealed container. Place the seasoned pecans in a sealed container and store them in a cool, dry place. They will keep for up to a week on the kitchen counter, for several weeks in the refrigerator, and for up to a year in the freezer.


  • Choose suitable nuts for your planned usage. Varieties can vary in oil content, yield, ease of shelling, and flavor.
  • Store unshelled pecans in a protected area, as squirrels and other rodents may steal from your supply if given the opportunity.


  • When cracking pecans with a mechanical device, splintered pieces of the shell can fly in every direction, so wearing eye protection is recommended.

Things You'll Need

  • Pecans
  • Pecan cracker, pliers, or a hammer
  • Container for separating the nuts from the shells

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