Chestnuts roasting on an open fire isn’t just the title of the well-known song crooned by Nat King Cole (or Justin Bieber for you young ones), it is the most amazing way to enjoy chestnuts throughout the holiday season. Sure, you can buy vacuum-packed ready-to-eat chestnuts from the local gourmet store, but they greatly pale in comparison to bona fide chestnuts roasted over a flame. Here’s how to roast chestnuts over an open fire.
Buy your chestnuts
Check your local supermarket for fresh chestnuts in the shell. Many grocers carry these ready-to-roast nuts during the holiday season. When purchasing chestnuts, opt for nuts that are blemish-free, shiny, plump and smooth. Pass over chestnuts that are soft or sound like a maraca when shaken (this is an indication the nutmeat is shriveled). We also recommend that you buy small to medium-sized chestnuts since large chestnuts take longer to roast. Another option is to order chestnuts online.
Use a chestnut roaster
For best results, use a long-handled chestnut roaster pan. This invaluable chestnut roasting tool is a heavy-duty pan with holes on the bottom. The long handle keeps you from getting burned by the flames. Some roasters come with lids while others are open on the top while the chestnuts cook. The good news is you can use a chestnut roaster pan all year-round – in the winter for chestnuts and in the summer for cooking camp foods over a campfire. Another option is to use an open-fire popcorn popper. The difference between the chestnut roaster and popcorn popper is that the popper has a lid.
- 1 to 2 pounds fresh chestnuts in the shell
- Rinse chestnuts in a colander, and then transfer them to a towel and pat dry.
- Use a sharp knife to cut an X on the flat-side of each chestnut (this allows steam to escape as the chestnut roasts so it doesn’t explode).
- Place chestnuts in a single layer in the pan. Do this in batches, if necessary.
- Place pan over the fire but not in the fire and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until all sides of the nuts are roasted. Chestnuts will be fragrant, browned and starting to pop open where you scored them with a knife.
- Carefully pull a chestnut out of the pan and pierce it with a knife. If it is tender, the nuts are done.
- Transfer chestnuts to a towel and let sit until cool enough to handle. While the nuts are still warm, use your fingers to peel off the outer shell.
- Let nuts continue to cool or simply pop them into your mouth.