Is it squirrels? They must use squirrels.
November 29, 2011 8:01 AM   Subscribe

If I buy a can of mixed nuts, I find whole Brazil nuts inside. If I buy Brazil nuts in the shell and open them myself, I invariably end up with a pile of smashed oily nut-meat with chunks still stuck to the shell. How, dear AskMe, do those magicians at the factory manage to open Brazil nuts and extract them whole? This question has driven me nuts (ha ha) for years.

Almonds almost always come out whole, and with hazelnuts I can go nearly 50/50; once in a while I can open a walnut and extract a whole half nut, and with pecans it's more likely than not. So it makes sense that with practice anyone could get good at extracting all of these. But Brazil nuts? In 30+ years of trying I don't think I have ever managed to get a whole one. The little bastards always smash, or stick to the shell, no matter what I do. Can anyone enlighten me? Surely someone here knows the dirty little secret the nut industry doesn't want us to find out about, right?
posted by caution live frogs to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Freezing them first works for me. I forgot who taught me that. You can also heat them first, which doesn't work as well at extracting whole nuts, but makes them very tasty.
posted by Lame_username at 8:08 AM on November 29, 2011

The intertubes suggest freezing, boiling, or baking.
posted by blurker at 8:18 AM on November 29, 2011

Another method that is used for many veggies with pods etc. in an industrial setting is to put them into a pressure vessel. Slowly raise the pressure inside. This way the pressure will penetrate the shell/pod, etc. Then, quickly drop the pressure in the vessel. The high pressure will still remain inside the shell, causing it to bust apart due to the pressure differential.

I am not sure if this is used particularly for Brazil nuts...
posted by chiefthe at 8:36 AM on November 29, 2011

I have always wondered this for walnuts as well.
posted by bq at 8:46 AM on November 29, 2011

I find if I use a nut cracker that screws instead of squeezes I can control the pressure better and if not get the nuts out whole at least in bigger pieces. The trick is to turn it slowly so eventually you just crack the shell not shatter it. I'll have to try the freezing and heating methods.
posted by wwax at 8:47 AM on November 29, 2011

Inertia nutcrackers. Makes a wonderful Christmas gift. So I'm told.
posted by sageleaf at 8:51 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just boiled some a few days ago. You only have to boil for a few minutes and it works pretty well. It will very slightly alter the taste and any nuts with cracks will be damp.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:55 AM on November 29, 2011

From what I can read, the question is not about how to do this at home with a couple of nuts. The question is about how it is done on an industrial scale. Am I wrong? If not, maybe there is an episode of How It's Made that covers this. I'd start there.
posted by spicynuts at 9:01 AM on November 29, 2011

Here ya go. Maybe you can find one on ebay.
posted by spicynuts at 9:38 AM on November 29, 2011

Came here to second the inertia nutcracker. Wicked fun to use, and the nuts come out 100% unharmed, regardless of the variety.
posted by Miko at 11:51 AM on November 29, 2011

Here's the website for Bill's inertia nutcracker - the Texas Native Inertia Nutcracker.
posted by Miko at 11:52 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

My answer is a little more literal: They have a nut cracking and shelling machine. The nuts are poured into this machine that cracks the shells, rolls the cracked shells off, and then blows off all the dust. I found a YouTube video of one of these. (Here's one that shows a processor in a more-professional/not roadside area.) At least in Texas and in the South, you can find these in small towns on the side of the road, usually with a lot of people waiting with their bags of nuts to have them cracked or completely shelled. They charge by the pound, and you also can buy cracked nuts at these places. It interesting (and loud) to see -- you should try to find one in your area!
posted by Houstonian at 3:24 AM on November 30, 2011

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