Is there a special tool available just for cracking open pistachio nuts? I'm asking because as I have gotten older, I have developed severe arthritis and joint pains, making opening them with my fingers very painful. I've always loved pistachios and hate having to ask my wife to crack them open for me.

I have tried using regular nut crackers, but the pistachio either slips out without cracking or the nut inside gets crushed.

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    This is not really an answer to your question, but you could try getting the pre-peeled pistachios. They're often sold unsalted, but I'm sure you could salt them yourself, maybe with a bit of oil or so to have the salt stick to the nuts. – Erik P. Dec 11 '10 at 3:10
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    I can't believe I didn't think of this. That is a good idea. Thank you! – James Slagel Dec 11 '10 at 4:45

i usually use half of a previously-opened pistachio shell! use the tip of it as a bit of lever: slip it into the opening of the one you're working on, and rotate it, and it will open it as easy as pie. the downside is that you will be able to eat many, many more pistachios this way. i usually end up with a mouth raw from all the salt, haha.

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    This is not a bad idea, but after trying it I find it difficult to grip the pistachio shell this way. However, you have given me the idea to use a small hand screwdriver to "twist" open pistachios! It isn't perfect, but it's the least painful technique I have tried yet. Thank you. – James Slagel Dec 11 '10 at 4:53
  • it does take practice, i admit. if a small screwdriver works better, i say go for it! i'm glad it's been of help. : ) – franko Dec 15 '10 at 1:25

If you spread out a bunch of pistachios on your counter and use a large oven sheet on top, you can apply a light pressure and roll the sheet in a circular motion. It will split the shells right off. I learned this trick when I was in Turkey.

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  • Do you mean a stone? Seems like it would work, but you'd risk fracturing it. And, a flat metal tray might bend. – zanlok Dec 13 '10 at 20:10
  • The specific tray that I use is a pizza tray, which is pretty thick and doesn't bend easily. I have used a normal rectangular baking sheet also, but it does bend. – Naomi Campbell Dec 13 '10 at 20:20
  • Interesting. I may give this a try. – James Slagel Dec 14 '10 at 0:42

I use the pliers on my multi-tool for especially resistant pistachios, but I don't know if that is a really an answer for you because it requires fine positioning of the nut (so that the jaws come down on the seam near the base of the nut) and coordination between the hands--if you're in pain this may be nearly as difficult as other methods.

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  • This is a good answer, but as you suspected it is still rather painful for me. Thank you for the suggestion! – James Slagel Dec 11 '10 at 4:48

How about a butter knife of a clamming knife

The suggestion of a small screwdriver seems a bit awkward to me for the job. A butter or clamming knife should fit in the hand much better.

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Position the unopened nut in the side cutter slot of your electrical pliers with the ridges against the sides. The pliers will close enough to open the nut but not enough to crush it. Don't have that kind of pliers? You're out of luck.

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I use a table spoon and twist it to bust them open

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Well the best general answer is the one about opening with a pistachio shell half - with average strength and dexterity, that works really well.

But that doesn't address your question - what is feasible with arthritic hands?

There are pistachio cracking machines, but they are pretty expensive. They work by squeezing the nuts between two rollers. The user turns a crank.

Here are some other simpler things that wouldn't hurt to try:

And long shots:

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