How to Roast Chestnuts

  • 01 of 06

    Start With Fresh Chestnuts

    Chestnuts
    Chestnuts. Photo © Molly Watson

    Chestnuts roasting over an open fire may mean "Christmas" or "winter" to plenty of people, but these sweet and starchy nuts are much easier to roast in an oven. Both methods are explained here.

    Plan on at least 1/3 pound of chestnuts per person and buy chestnuts that look plump and feel a bit heavy for their size. Avoid nuts that are cracked or have bruises or soft spots. You'll also want to bypass any nuts that rattle when you shake them, they have started to dry out and...MORE won't be tasty. Store chestnuts loosely wrapped in plastic in the fridge for up to a week (for longer storage, simply pop them in the freezer for up to a couple of months).

    Preheat an oven to 400°F or prepare a live fire in a fireplace, fire pit, or grill.

    Continue to 2 of 6 below.
  • 02 of 06

    Cut the Chestnut Shells

    Cutting Chestnuts
    Cutting Chestnuts. Photo © Molly Watson

    Many people will say you need to cut an "x" into the chestnut shell. I say that works fine, but so does a rough "y" cut, which can be easier to make.

    In any case, use the tip of a sharp paring knife or, as pictured above, a chestnut knife (yes, they exist!) to cut an "x" or at least a "y" into the flat side of each chestnut. Be sure to cut through both the shell and the skin underneath. Be careful and try to avoid cutting into the chestnut itself.

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  • 03 of 06

    Chestnuts Ready to Roast

    Chestnuts Ready to Roast
    Chestnuts Ready to Roast. Photo © Molly Watson

    Cut the shells of all the chestnuts. Place chestnuts in a roasting pan or on a piece of foil to roast in the oven or in a fire-proof pan, like a cast iron skillet, to roast over a fire.

    If roasting in an oven, put chestnuts in the hot oven and roast until shells pull apart where they are cut and the chestnuts are tender, about 30 minutes. If roasting over a fire, hold or set pan over the hot fire and cook, shaking the pan frequently, until the chestnut shells are charred, the shells pull apart...MORE where they are cut, and the chestnuts are tender, somewhere in the 30-minute range depending on how hot the fire is.

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  • 04 of 06

    Roasted Chestnuts Ready to Peel

    Roasted Chestnuts
    Roasted Chestnuts. Photo © Molly Watson
    When the chestnut shells open up where they are cut, the shells start to char, and the nuts inside are tender (test one to be sure), they are ready to peel.
    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Peel Off Chestnut Shells

    Peeling Chestnuts
    Peeling Chestnuts. Photo © Molly Watson

    Since you took the time to cut all those incisions in the shells, the roasted chestnuts will be relatively easy to peel. They will also, however, be hot. And here we have the real trick of getting a freshly roasted chestnut into a state in which you can eat it. If you let them cool too much, they get more difficult to peel as the skin inside the shell seems to re-attach itself to the nut. I like to wrap them in a clean kitchen towel to keep them warm.

    Pull and snap off the shell, being sure to...MORE take the skin inside the shell with it.

    At my house, we like to sit around a pile of freshly roasted chestnuts, each taking a nut, peeling it, and eating it as we chat and this and that. You may, however, have other plans for those chestnuts (candied? stuffing? soup? garnishing a cake?), in which case you may need to settle in a peel them all yourself.

    Continue to 6 of 6 below.
  • 06 of 06

    Roasted and Peeled Chestnuts, Ready to Eat

    Roasted and Peeled Chestnuts
    Roasted and Peeled Chestnuts. Photo © Molly Watson

    Once roasted and peeled, chestnuts are delicious to eat just as is. They are also a popular addition to stuffing, can be used to make delicious soup, are beyond fabulous when candied, and make lovely and tasty garnishes for winter cakes.