I received an email asking what device will most effectively chop nuts.
First, let’s look at the easiest way to chop nuts without adding another tool to the cabinet.
The fastest, best way to chop nuts is with a knife on a cutting board. Depending on the intended size of end product, you can smash the nuts using the flat blade portion of a chef’s knife, then invert the blade and chop until you reach the size you seek.
Another low tech method involves smashing the nuts in a Ziploc bag or tea towel. You simply put the nuts in the bag or towel to contain the nut pieces as they break. You can then smash the nuts with a skillet or mallet. If you use a Ziploc bag, make sure you press out the majority of the air in the bag before smashing it. If you don’t, you risk popping the bag and making a mess.
The next option I would suggest is to use a tool you probably already have in your kitchen – a food processor. The key to effectively chopping nuts in a food processor is to pulse the blade in a quick on and off fashion. You need to pay close attention to the bowl to make sure you aren’t turning the nuts into paste or “flour”. Also don’t overload the bowl with nuts – too many nuts in the bowl means some will become paste before the rest are chopped. I have tried to use topside mounted disks, for example a slicing blade, to chop or slice nuts, but the nuts tend to bounce around inside the feeder tube and never really achieve the result I am seeking.
If none of these methods appeal, there are a couple of tools available for chopping nuts that do a good job – it does mean adding another tool to your collection.
The first, simplest and probably best tool is the Progressive Nut Grinder. It features an enclosed top loading chamber, a manual crank and a bottom collection bowl with volume measurements on the side. It will hold about a cup of chopped nuts. I like it because it is easy to use, effective, reliable and doesn’t create a mess.
Another option, is the ages old table clamped food grinder from Universal. It reminds me of the old style cast iron meat grinder. In fact they look so similar that many people confuse the two when seen on a store shelf. The difference is the grinding blade, which will be displayed on the outside of the box. The food grinder is an exposed convex exposed blade. This tool will do a lot of nuts easily, but it is heavy, bulky and a bit more involved to clean. On the positive side this durable, rugged tool will grind other types of food making it a multi-tasker in the kitchen.
There are other manual tools like a twist and chop, but I do not recommend using it for anything but soft nuts like walnuts and even then, walnuts can get stuck on the blades. Additionally, they can only chop small amounts of nuts and will produce uneven, generally unsatisfactory results.
There are also pump style food choppers that will work just fine on a variety of nuts and are quite highly regarded by many consumers. These tools are cylindrical in shape and have a top hand pump. You simply push down on on the pump and a spring kicks it back upward; the better models rotate the blades as you pump. Some of these models also have measuring marks on the collection bin.
I would really recommend that you use one of these above methods for chopping and grinding nuts. There are some tools that seem like they might work, in reality don’t. This list of “thumbs down” tools includes rotary cylinder graters which are very effective for cheese, but aren’t so good for nuts. “Salad shooters” and the Kitchen Aid attachment also fall into this category.
I am also not fond of using box graters for this purpose. They are ineffective for use with nuts and rough on the fingers if you are not careful.
In the end, if you choose not to use your knife, I would recommend you smash them in a bag or towel using a mallet or skillet. These methods are just so simple and use things you already have in your kitchen. After that, I suggest the Progressive International nut grinder.
– If your goal is slivered or sliced nuts, then I would suggest you buy them already cut. You can hold nuts and slice or julienne them with a knife, but it takes lots of patience and time.
– If you are going to roast the nuts, roast them before chopping. You will get a better tasting finished product.