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What Can I Do with Pecan Shells?

Misty Amber Brighton
Misty Amber Brighton

If you have a large number of pecan shells, you may be wondering what to do with them. One option is to grind the shells into coarse pieces to use as mulch. You could also add a few shells to the fire when you are grilling to give your food a hint of pecan flavor. Since these nuts do burn easily, they are useful as kindling when starting a campfire. They could also be painted and glued to make a variety of craft projects.

One common use for pecan shells is to make mulch from them. In order to do this, you will need to grind the shells into small chunks without creating a powder. You might want to rent a commercial grinder in order to accomplish this task. Chunks that are around 1/2 inch (1.27 cm) are ideal for use in most gardens.

Pecan shells can be ground to make mulch.
Pecan shells can be ground to make mulch.

Many people like to add pecan shells to a charcoal or wood fire when grilling. Doing so can give meat a light pecan flavor. Some things you may want to try cooking in this manner are chicken and pork. If you are unsure that you will find the flavor appealing, you may want to add a small handful to the fire the first time and add more the next time if you enjoy the taste.

Pecan shells can be burned in a wood stove.
Pecan shells can be burned in a wood stove.

Pecan shells burn easily, which makes them ideal to use as kindling. When starting a fire with pecans, you do not need to break or grind them up first. You can simply lay them underneath smaller pieces of wood or wrap them in newspaper or a cardboard roll. This method is useful both indoors and out, so it can be tried in a portable fire pit as well as a wood stove.

If you are looking for an inexpensive craft project, there are a number you can complete using pecan shells. Pecans could be painted or stained and then glued together to make various animal shapes. You could also attach items such as feathers, twigs, or flowers to make a unique arrangement. They might also be glued onto a piece of cardboard as part of a collage. If you like making handmade soaps, you could add ground shells to your recipe in order to create a body scrub.

Pecan shells generally take a long time to decay, which means it is important to put them to good use. Many possibilities exist, so it can be easy to find a suitable purpose for these objects. By experimenting with different methods, you can find one that best suits your needs and is helpful to the environment as well.

Can You Use Pecan Shells To Smoke Meat?

Pecan shells are an excellent fuel source for campfires, wood stoves and meat smokers. That's because they're composed of cellulose, lignin and hemicellulose. To understand what this means, let's break down each of these components.

Pecan Shells and Combustibility

Cellulose, a sugar molecule containing carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms, is a primary component of plant cell walls. It's mostly found in bark and leaves, but it also makes up seeds and the hulls that protect them. Lignin is an organic polymer that gives wood and tree bark their rigid structure. Hemicellulose is a biopolymer carbohydrate, a polysaccharide that also contributes to plants' cell wall composition.

Thanks to their composition, pecan shells have a similar molecular structure and texture to pecan wood. Both the shells and the wood have a lower moisture content. This is why they burn without much effort.

The Science of Meat Smoking

How does smoking give meat its unique flavor? To find this out, we should understand how the smoking process works. When you smoke meat, you cook it over a fire at lower temperatures for an extended time. The meat is surrounded by smoke from your fuel source, so it takes on aroma and flavor qualities from the smoke itself. Believe it or not, smoking meat also helps preserve it. The process dehydrates the meat and allows it to absorb antibacterial properties from the smoke.

You've heard it said that "low and slow" are important keys for good quality smoked meats. Hardwoods are denser and drier than softwoods such as pine, fir and spruce. They also don't contain as much moisture and lack the sap that's found in hardwoods. Because of these properties, they can combust and smolder more slowly. As a result, they produce cleaner smoke. That's why hardwoods are excellent fuels for smoking meat. Any hardwood must be properly dried first, which can be done either through air drying or placing it inside a kiln.

Pecan Shells and Meat Smoking

So if hardwoods are favored for smoking, why do pecan shells work so well? We already know they have similar properties as the wood. But pecan trees are also in the hickory family, which includes several species that grow throughout Asia and the Americas.

Hickory has long been favored for smoking due to the smoky and spicy flavor it lends to meat. Similarly, pecan shells give meat and poultry a lightly smoky taste with sweet undertones. Soak your pecan shells in water for 30 minutes ti add steam and moisture while smoking your meat.

Can Dogs Eat Pecan Shells?

Maybe you've heard a bit about pecan shell fiber's potential benefits. Besides plant fibers like cellulose, lignin and hemicellulose, they also contain small amounts of fat, protein, polyphenols and proanthocyanidins. While further food uses of pecan shell fiber need to be studied, it's currently used commercially in liquid smoke and other meat flavoring products.

Veterinarians generally recommend against feeding pecans to dogs. These nuts contain small amounts of juglone, which can kill off insects and stunt the growth of other plants. The black walnut tree is a notorious producer of juglone, but pecans have lower levels that can still upset dogs' stomachs. Pecan shells have higher levels of juglone than pecan nuts.

Besides juglone toxicity, dogs can have problems with pecan shells for other reasons. Even when ground up, the shells can pose a serious choking hazard. There's also the problem of bowel obstruction. When pecan shell pieces collect and get stuck in the digestive tract, they can prevent food and liquids from passing through. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and appetite loss. If you notice these signs, contact your vet immediately.

Can Pecan Shells Be Composted?

You already know that pecan shells can be ground and used as mulch. Unsurprisingly, they're also excellent for composting. Like many organic materials, pecan shells naturally decompose. When included in your compost piles, they help form nutrient-packed mulch you can use in your garden.

If you're a little confused by what you just read, that's understandable. Grinding pecan shells can produce mulch, so why should you let them compost? To answer that question, let's take a quick look at what goes into compost. As you know, it contains organic material that has already decayed. When you add it to soil, it changes the soil's organic material composition and chemistry. The soil can also hold onto more water. With both these improvements, adding compost to soil can better enable your plants to grow and thrive.

Discussion Comments


Crushed pecans do work as mulch, but they are not one of my favorite choices in this area since renting a grinder is an extra step I prefer not to take. However, I am curious to try the shells when I am grilling, as mentioned in the article. I haven't seen anyone do that before.


I thought I was the only one who used nut shells for building fires. Now I read this article and find out that someone else knows my secret fire starter.

Nut shells are great in the fireplace. I have seen people use paper and cardboard boxes to start fires, which is dangerous because of the chance of starting a chimney fire. With nut shells you don't have to worry about debris flying up the chimney and creating havoc.

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    • Pecan shells can be ground to make mulch.
      By: Virynja
      Pecan shells can be ground to make mulch.
    • Pecan shells can be burned in a wood stove.
      By: Paul Maguire
      Pecan shells can be burned in a wood stove.