How to Shell Pecans: Learn How to Do It Right

A pecan is one of the most delicious and versatile nuts. It can be used in more ways than one, such as toppings for salads and for the ever-popular pecan pie, among others. They have thin shells, which are quite easy to crack. Nonetheless, the problem is that the nut inside the shell can be fragile, and hence, many people end up breaking them.

Knowing how to shell pecans is an essential knowledge if you love these nuts. If you want to know how to do it right, I got you covered in the rest of this post. I will also provide you with insights on other important things, such as the right way to pick pecans, as well as their proper cleaning and storage.

How to Pick Pecans

If you are picking fresh pecans from a tree that you have in your yard, you must know when is the right time to do so. The best indication that the pecan is ready for harvest is when the outer shell turns green. At this point, the inner and outer shells will already be separate from each other.

One of the best ways to pick pecan from a tree is to use a fishing pole. Cast a line on the end of the pole, throw it on a branch, and shake the fishing pole vigorously. This will make the nuts fall on their own. Once they are on the ground, you must separate the good nuts from the bad ones.

Bunch of Pecan Nuts

Harvest pecans when the outer shell turns green

In most instances, pecans will drop on the ground when they are already ripe. Do not wait for a long time. Once they fall, pick them up immediately and crack the shells.

How to Shell Pecans

You can either buy pecans in stores or harvest them fresh from a hickory tree in the backyard. Once they are ready, one thing that you can do is to boil the pecans prior to cracking the shell. The boiling process can help to make the shell softer, and thus, it will be easier to remove later on.

Once the pecans have boiled, drain the water in a colander. Allow it to cool down for a few minutes. You do not want to hold the peanuts while they are still hot.

There are many ways to shell pecans, but the one that I can recommend best is the use of a hand-cracker. This is not only easy, but it also usually results in the highest yields. It can be easy, but if you will be cracking a lot of pecans, your hand must be ready to get sore.

If you do not have a nutcracker at home, you can easily improvise with the use of common tools, such as pliers and side cutter.

How to Shell Pecans

Use a hand-cracker to shell pecans

Using a hammer will also work. Position the nut on a stable and hard surface, such as a wooden chopping board. Hit it with a hammer on one side, rotate, and hit again. This can be quick, but I suggest that you stay away from this process as it can quickly break the pecan.

Lastly, a specialized pecan cracker can also be used. You may want to purchase one if you always shell pecans. It can be a great investment.

How to Clean and Store Pecans

Once the nut is fully-opened, make sure that there are no traces of dirt or shell. You can use a toothpick to get rid of any woody material that might have remained. After cleaning, leave the pecans in a perforated container for at least 24 hours. After a full day, keep in a container with a sealed lid to avoid moisture and heat. Store the nuts in a cool and dry place.

You might also want to heat the pecans in an oven. The heat will be a great way to enhance its flavor, which will add a hint of smokiness. Plus, it is going to make the nuts crunchy. Heating them in an oven will also lessen the chances that mold will form while it is kept in a container with airtight lid.


Thinking of how to shell pecans? As noted in this post, you do not need to do it manually by hand. The best solution is to use a nutcracker. It usually leads to the highest yield while minimizing the tendency that the pecan will be damaged.

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