Luckily, chestnut season and fireplace season happen pretty much simultaneously. Starting in October and lasting into Spring, chestnuts appear in many grocery stores. Roasting chestnuts in the fireplace is a long-standing tradition in many homes. If you try it once, it will become a tradition in your home, too.
It’s not just eating the roasted chestnuts that makes this activity so enjoyable. It’s also the socializing and the novelty of cooking a delicious treat in the fireplace. Chestnuts can be roasted in the oven, but many people feel that chestnuts roasted in the fireplace have a superior, slightly smoky flavor.
Buying Chestnuts to Roast in a Fireplace
At the store, select chestnuts that are free of holes, spots, or mold. Nuts should be firm and shiny. Nuts of varying sizes will need varying amounts of cooking time, so pick nuts that are roughly uniform in size.
What to Roast Chestnuts In
You’ll need some kind of container in which to roast the chestnuts. A chestnut roaster made for the purpose is ideal, but if you don’t want to spend the $30 to $40 to buy one, you can use a cast iron skillet around 12” in diameter. If you don’t have a skillet, you can roast chestnuts in a fireplace in aluminum foil.
Preparing Chestnuts to Roast in the Fireplace
Whether you plan to roast chestnuts in the fireplace using a chestnut roaster, a skillet, or aluminum foil, to prepare your chestnuts, let them soak in cool water for a half hour. This makes it easier to peel them after they are roasted. It also makes it easier to cut an X on the smooth side of each nut. The X should cover the entire smooth side and the cut should go all the way through the shell. This cut gives the chestnut room to expand while roasting. Without the cut the chestnuts could explode!
If you don’t care for your fingers, a box cutter works well for making the X cut. We, however, recommend using either the ChestnutPro-Cut (which requires two downward pressure pushes to make an X) or the Chestnutter (which requires one squeezing motion to make the X).
For any of the cooking methods below you will need to let your fire burn down to a bed of embers 2 or 3 inches deep.
How to Roast Chestnuts in a Fireplace Using Aluminum Foil
If you’re cooking your chestnuts in aluminum foil, seal the foil package and put it on the embers. Turn the package over every few minutes to help the chestnuts cook evenly. You’ll hear some quiet popping after 10-20 minutes.
How to Roast Chestnuts in a Fireplace Using a Chestnut Roaster
If you’re using a chestnut roaster, hold it 4-5 inches above the embers and give it a shake once in a while to promote even roasting. Typical roasting times vary from 10 to 30 minutes.
How to Roast Chestnuts in a Fireplace Using a Skillet
If you’re roasting chestnuts in a cast iron skillet, settle the skillet into the embers and stir the nuts occasionally.
Chestnuts are done when the X-shaped cut has opened and the inside of the nut is soft. You can crush the nuts slightly inside a towel to make them easier to peel. Peel the chestnuts before they are all the way cool. If they get tough to peel, re-heat them a bit.
The chestnuts are ready to eat as soon as they cool. Many people enhance the flavor of the chestnuts with butter and cinnamon.
Remember, chestnuts are best when roasted in the fireplace.
Can you tell which photo below is “Chestnut roasting by an open fire” and which is “Chess-nuts toasting by an open fire”?
Chess-Nuts Toasting or Chestnuts Roasting?