How To Open Stubborn Pistachio Shells Without Using Your Teeth

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Just like crab legs and pomegranates, pistachios require some effort before you can savor their flavors. Opening them might take time, but they're usually not a tough nut to crack. Simply find the split in the shell, pry it open with your fingers, and enjoy the rich, savory morsel inside. Usually, as pistachios grow, they naturally split, allowing them to be roasted and seasoned right in the shell. Louise Ferguson, a pistachio expert tapped by How Stuff Works, states that the vast majority (between 70 to 90%) of pistachios open on their own. The ones that don't are still fine to eat, but are typically removed during processing and find their way into other delicious products like pistachio ice cream or trail mix.


Much to the dismay of pistachio enthusiasts, it seems like there's always at least one stubborn nut in every bag you buy. Rather than risking a chipped tooth or fingernail trying to open it, it's good to know that there are far more effective methods for getting your precious pistachio out, including nutcrackers and other handy tools.

First, try this easy pistachio trick

In most cases, you don't need any special equipment to open a sealed pistachio; everyday items are usually sufficient. However, this doesn't mean resorting to your teeth or nails, unless you're okay with breaking them. While you can, for instance, use a coin as a makeshift pistachio lever, be wary as this could introduce bacteria or leave a metallic taste. Also, it's not a good idea to use your fist to smash a pistachio, which is just asking for trouble.


One of the most effective and safe methods for cracking these nuts involves something you're sure to have on hand — empty pistachio shells. For this method, take one half of an empty pistachio shell and wedge it into any small opening you can find on the mostly sealed pistachio. Then, gently wiggle it back and forth, using it to pry the stubborn sucker open. This clever little trick often does the job without the need for excessive force or the risk of injury.

If the easy way doesn't work, it's time to get serious

When you're struggling to find a seam in your pistachio, it's time to up the ante a bit. Gather those unhulled nuts and place them on a cutting board. Then, cover them with a clean kitchen towel and apply gentle pressure with a blunt object like a large can, heavy pan, or rolling pin. This should help crack open those tough shells. For serious nut enthusiasts, a nutcracker could be your go-to tool. It's designed to handle the toughest nuts, making it perfect for unyielding pistachios, chestnuts, Brazil nuts, or whatever you have around. And for ride-or-die pistachio lovers, specialized pistachio openers are available too. 


Do take care if you plan to store your bulk, shelled pistachios for a long time — the freezer can help prolong their shelf life. Whichever method you choose, remember that most pistachios can be salvaged and enjoyed. They're often worth a little bit of extra effort. After all, the reward is a delicious, savory snack that's both nutritious and satisfying.