When it comes to foods that can be used for countless different things in a variety of recipes, there are few foods that are as versatile as nuts are. While many people enjoy eating nuts on their own, many other people also rely on nuts for added flavor and texture in their dishes.
Different kinds of nuts are easier to work with than others.
Some nuts are quite easy to chop up and grind into finer pieces that can be used in just about any recipe that calls for them. Other nuts are large enough that they become toppings of their own while others are small enough that most people don’t even bother with cutting them up.
How easy your food is to work with depends entirely on what you are working on and just how finely chopped you need to have the ingredients of your dish.
Of course, with there being as many different kinds of nuts to use as there are and as many different recipes to work with, it will be hard to know what you will need to do with the nuts that you want to use.
Reading up on the recipes you are working with will be important as it will give you some good insight into what you will need to do with the ingredients of your dish.
There may come a time when you realize that even if you thought that you had everything ready and prepared, you might notice that you simply do not have the equipment that you need to get the nuts cut down to the proper size.
While you might worry that your dish has been completely ruined, you won’t have to worry too much as there are plenty of ways to reduce the size of the nuts you are working with.
For instance, the recipe at hand could call for chopped nuts but you do not have a food processor to quickly and efficiently chop the nuts you have. There may not be anything that gets the job done as efficiently as a food processor might but there are still quite a few ways that you can get the ingredients in the form that you need them to be in to make your recipe work out well.
There are two types of solutions that you can use when working with nuts and it will depend entirely on both the type of nut you are working with and what the recipe you are working from calls for.
In some cases, you might want larger chunks of nut but not the original size; in other cases, you might want to have finely chopped or ground nuts.
Chopping Nuts Without Machinery
Most people think of nuts as hard-to-break objects that take a lot of force to get down to the right size. However, this is simply not the case.
There are many types of nuts that are much softer than you might originally think, meaning that you will be able to chop them down to the right size without needing any machinery.
For chopped nuts, the easiest way to cut them without using machinery is with a blade. There are actually quite a few different blades that you can use that will be far more efficient than just a sharp knife.
If you are a baker who enjoys making pastries, a pastry cutter can actually get the job done surprisingly well. Keep in mind that these tend to work best on nuts that are already easy to chop and do not have a particularly hard shell.
Pastry cutters work best for walnuts and pecans. The edges of the pastry cutter can even help to stop rogue nuts from flying across the kitchen.
Along that line of thinking, if you do not have a pastry cutter, an apple cutter can work well enough for nuts as well, especially ones that have a tougher shell on them.
Considering the way that apple cutters work, these cutters are also much more suited to nuts that don’t exactly sit still either. An apple cutter will work well for walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, and almonds.
And finally, there is the idea of simply using a knife. Using a single knife to chop nuts is not going to be nearly as fast as using a good food processor but when you are working without machinery, you can expect things to take a little bit of extra time.
This method also won’t work well for particularly hard-shelled nuts or when you have to cut many nuts at a time; however, if you only want a few nuts to garnish a salad, using a knife can get the job done without dirtying anything that you might need to use later.
Consider Crushing the Nuts
When it comes to cooking, especially baking, a lot of people want to make sure that their food looks as good as possible.
Depending on what you are making, this can mean that you are putting a lot of time and effort into making sure that all of the cuts you make in food look good and each little piece of garnish is sitting just right. When planning to cut nuts with a knife, this is what will take the majority of the time.
With that being said, there are also situations where you don’t necessarily need the nuts to look good. All that you really need is the nuts to be smaller and more manageable so that you can work them into the recipe.
In these cases, you won’t have to worry about the appearance of the nuts and you can focus on a more efficient method of getting them down to size.
Ultimately, the quickest way to get nuts into pieces that you can use in your recipe is to crush the nuts with something heavy. This will be the most efficient method, especially if you are working with a lot of them at once.
There are many ways that you can get this done but you will want to exercise a fair bit of caution to make sure that you don’t damage any kitchen equipment or yourself.
First things first — you will want to put all of the nuts into a sealable bag. This is to make sure that the nuts don’t fly across the room when you begin crushing them as they will be stopped by the bag.
If you only have a limited number of bags but you also want to get this done, you can skip putting the nuts in the bag but you should be mindful of any rogue nuts.
Once you have placed the nuts in the bag, you should find a hard, sturdy, and flat surface to put the bag of nuts on. The surface should be able to withstand the pressure and hits from whatever you will be using to crush the nuts so do not choose anything flimsy, fragile, or likely to tip over or break. More often than not, a countertop will work just fine.
From here, you will want to find something that you can use to smack the nuts with. This could be the bottom of a heavy glass or you could use a rolling pin.
If you really want to vent some anger, you could even use a small frying pan. In theory, you should use something that will be able to adequately crush and break the nuts down into small pieces. It should be strong enough to withstand the pressure of doing this.
You will want to continue crushing the nuts until they are the desired size. Once they have reached this point, you can open the bag and pour them through a colander or sieve to make sure that any finely ground dust doesn’t get into the nuts that you want to use for your baking recipe.
Before you know it, you will have nuts of an appropriate size for your needs.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.