How to Roast Chestnuts on an Open Fire

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire aren’t just the lyrics to the Christmas Song, made famous by the great Nat King Cole. They’re also a fantastic treat to make during the holiday season! Not only will they fill your home with an incredible aroma, but the actual chestnuts are fairly delicious.

Roasting Chestnuts over an open fire (or in the oven) is an extremely easy and great holiday entertainment idea, as well as a delicious snack. This step by step guide will walk you through the tools needed and how to roast delicious roasted chestnuts that will make you a holiday hero.

Step 1 : Buy Chestnuts

Fresh chestnuts best used for roasting have the shell on and usually found in the produce section of a grocers or supermarket. Farmer’s markets will likely have them as well.

Chef’s Tip: Buy the chestnuts as close to the day you are roasting them so they are fresh.

Step 2: Get The Tools Ready

If using the oven, the key tool needed for roasted chestnuts is a cast iron pan or roasting dish. If using a fire, which we highly recommend, these are some additional tools to make the roasting experience both easier and safe.

  • High Heat Welding Style Gloves – This is important to avoid burning hands when the fire and heat are several hundred degrees. Protect those hands!
  • Cast Iron Pan – A cast iron pan can handle the heat.
  • A Large Grill – Because the cast iron pan is heavy, in addition to having a handle, using a large grill is key as it helps to keep it stable.

Step 3: Prepare the Chestnuts for Roasting

Chestnuts are a soft nut surrounded by a hard shell. The nut has a fair amount of moisture and steams when cooking. To avoid the chestnut from exploding it’s important to prepare the chestnut for cooking over an open fire.

One side of the shell is typically flat while the other is rounded. Be sure the nuts are fresh and uncut when buying. Start off by rinsing the chestnuts in cold water. Score the flat side of each chestnut with a paring or serrated knife with an ‘X’. This should be deep enough to just expose inside the nut casing and to prevent them from popping too violently as the steam escapes. Only one side needs the scoring.

Step 4: Ready, Steady, Roast!

Start with hot lumps of charcoal or a good bed of hot embers in an open log fire.

Lay out just enough charcoal that the cast iron pan will set atop the embers on but not touch the handle. Setting a large grill for indirect cooking is an easy way to do this.

Put the chestnuts into a seasoned cast iron pan, ensuring they’re spread evenly. The scored side should be facing up. This allows the shell to absorb all the high heat first. Cover the pan before placing this over your open fire or in your oven.  You can cover it with aluminium foil if you don’t have a fireproof lid.

Place the pan over the coals. Allow the cast iron pan to heat up with the chestnuts in the pan.

After 5 minutes, begin to stir the chestnuts. Stir occasionally for an additional 5 – 7 minutes or until the shells begin to split – the insides should also be soft. Over fire, roasted chestnuts will cook in 10 – 12 minutes if the shell is on.

Remove from the fire. Wrap the roasted chestnuts in a damp towel to steam them and allow them to cool.  This makes them both less painful and easier to peel.

When cool enough to handle, remove the outer hard shell, then serve warm with a touch of salt and enjoy with your loved ones!

What do roasted chestnuts taste like?

Roasted Chestnuts will be soft, buttery, and slightly nutty. These mild flavored nuts have a lot of moisture and make for a nice chewy bite.

Finish with a good quality finishing salt for extra flavor, or some melted butter.

How to serve and store chestnuts

After roasting chestnuts, they are best served the same day as roasting. Simply place them in a dish, remove the shells and eat as required. Have an empty dish handy to collect the shells. The presentation is part of the roasted chestnut experience.

If they are not all consumed, then store in an airtight container and rewarm gently over a low heat with some butter or oil within two days. Because the moisture is cooked out during the roasting process, they don’t reheat well.

What else can you roast?

If you don’t love the taste of chestnuts, don’t despair! You can still get into the festive spirit (and make the most of your home’s open fire) by roasting other treats. Some options include fruit, marshmallows, seeds, and other nuts, such as pecans and hazelnuts.

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