How to Roast Chestnuts in a Fireplace

How to Roast Chestnuts in a Fireplace

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.

Selecting Chestnuts to Roast in the Fireplace

Select firm, shiny chestnuts, without mold or holes, of a uniform size for roasting in the fireplace.

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).

Chestnut Roasting X-cutters

ChestnutPro-Cut or Chestnutter easily make the preparatory cut in chestnuts.

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.

After Roasting

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.

Bonus Points

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? Chess-Nuts Toasting or Chestnuts Roasting?

Chess-Nuts Toasting or Chestnuts Roasting?

Posted in Using Your Fireplace Tagged with: , ,

Do I Need a Chimney Sweep? Can I DIY?

Do you really need a chimney sweep? Your wallet versus a chimney sweep.
  • Do I really need a chimney sweep or can I DIY?

  • Aren’t there fireplace and chimney tasks I can do myself, without special training?

  • And how much money will I save if I do the chimney maintenance and repair work a chimney sweep would charge me to do?

  • If I maintain my fireplace and chimney myself, what products would I need, and how much would they cost?

  • After paying for the chimney repair materials, would there still be a significant savings?

If you are handy around the house, used to doing home maintenance tasks yourself instead of paying someone else to do them, and comfortable working on the roof, you have probably asked yourself at least some of the questions above.

The infographic below answers these questions.  See a comparison of how much chimney sweeps typically charge for chimney maintenance and repair tasks and how much you would save by doing the work yourself.  (Chimney sweep prices vary by locality, but the infographic has averages.)  Get the picture on when you really need a chimney sweep and when can you do it yourself.  And identify the products you will need if you decide to do the work yourself.  Professional grade chimney caps, dampers, and chimney repair products, the same ones certified chimney sweeps use, can be purchased from

This Your Wallet vs Chimney Sweep Infographic also lists the annual inspection and maintenance tasks homeowners should consider for their fireplaces and chimneys.

If you should decide to have a chimney sweep do some of the maintenance tasks, be aware that folklore has it that chimney sweeps can do more than clean and repair your chimney: they can also bring your home good luck!  Learn when it’s not only good luck but also prudent to hire a chimney sweep and when it’s good luck for your wallet to DIY.

Your Wallet vs. Chimney Sweep – DIY or Pay?


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Christmas Fireplace Safety – Safety Tips

Christmas Fireplace Safety: Fireplace Safety Tips for Christmas

Use the Christmas Fireplace Safety Checklist below to keep your family safe around the fireplace during the winter holidays.

Are your Christmas stockings hung on the fireplace mantel with care?

In the famous Christmas poem, the stockings were not just “hung by the chimney;” they were hung “with care.” Even in the midst of describing a nocturnal visit from Santa, the author noted one important aspect of Christmas fireplace safety!

Below are some essential Christmas fireplace safety issues to keep in mind during the holidays:

Hang Christmas stockings on the mantel ONLY when there is no fire in the fireplace.

checkYes, you can hang the Christmas stockings from the fireplace mantel but ONLY when there is no fire in the fireplace.  Plan on arranging safe places you can move the stockings to when you want to light your fireplace. Some people move the stockings to small hooks concealed on a stairway banister, on a room divider, on a book case, on the molding around an archway between two rooms, or on the inside doors of the television cabinet.


checkPlace Christmas trees safely away from the fireplace. Three feet away from the fireplace is the minimum recommended distance.  No one wants a forest fire, even if it is a solo tree fire, to ruin the holiday spirit!
Keep 3 feet between the Christmas tree and the fireplace.

Ammonium sulfate, a fertilizer found in the gardening section of hardware stores, can make your fresh Christmas tree fire retardant (though not fire proof). For an average-sized cut tree, mix 9 pounds of Ammonium Sulphate and 2 gallons of water in a bucket. Set the tree in the bucket for 48 hours in a cool, dark place (such as an unheated garage) before bringing the tree inside to decorate.

Make your Christmas tree fire retardant.


Hearth gift basket of fire starters

Christmas presents, too, need to be kept at a safe distance – three feet – from a burning fire.  That wrapping paper can go up in flames quickly! Fireplace Gift Baskets are delightful holiday gifts and add a festive charm to the hearth, but because they contain fire starters such as pine cone starters and fatwood fire starters, you will certainly want to keep them not too close to the actual fire.



When decorating your fireplace mantel for Christmas, keep combustible material such as holiday greenery and ribbons safely on the fireplace mantel, not draping over the edge of the mantel. A stray fireplace spark can ignite holiday decorations exposed over the fireplace mantel’s edge unless your fireplace screen is a spark guard.

Fireplace spark guards add safety.Fireplace spark guards (also know as spark arresters) are a type of fireplace screen specifically designed to prevent this. Providing more spark protection for your room than most fireplace screens, the top of spark guards’ screens curve up and seal against the fireplace surround. These spark guard fireplace screens protect your home from sparks that might try to shoot up and out of the fire.

checkCandles add a lovely touch to Christmas fireplace mantel decorations. Consider using electric candles.  If you are using real candles, to protect your mantel decorations from candle flames, use only candles with glass protection around the flames. Votive Candles in votive holders work safely on fireplace mantels. Votive candles and jar candles shield their surroundings from the flames. For other candles, consider using hurricane candle shades, available from craft stores, to safeguard your mantel decorations from candle flames.

checkYoung children and pets are charmed by the flickering flames and warmth of a Child safety grate can surround a fireplace, wood stove, BBQ grill or even a Christmas tree! fireplace fire. Fireplace safety gates (as seen at right) and fireplace child guard screens (such as the one below) are designed to keep two-footed as well as four-footed little ones at a safe distance from fireplaces and wood stoves. The safety gates have the advantage of allowing adults easy access to the fireplace for tending the fire.

 Child guard screen


checkDo not burn Christmas wrapping paper in the fireplace.As Christmas gifts are unwrapped, do not burn the used wrapping paper in the fireplace.  The colored papers can release toxic fumes when burned.



checkDo not burn Christmas tree in the fireplace.When it is time to take down the Christmas decorations, do not burn the Christmas tree in the fireplace.  All that unseasoned pine could start a chimney fire!  Instead, recycle it or haul it away.


The winter holidays, with family, friends, and home taking center stage, are a time of heavy fireplace use. Keep your hearth both merry and safe by following these simple but important Christmas fireplace safety policies.



Posted in Holidays, Safety Tagged with: ,

Fireplace Stockings Were Hung with Care

Fireplace Stockings Were Hung

A fireplace is so integral to Christmas that hanging the stockings on the fireplace mantel is a tradition that many families look forward to each year.

Clement Moore’s famous poem, The Night Before Christmas, immortalizes that moment when “the stockings were hung by the chimney with care.”

As a safety note, please remember to remove the stockings when your fireplace is lit.  On Christmas eve when all head to bed, the fire will be safely out so stockings can be hung and Santa can make his traditional entrance safely.

Some friends have generously shared photos of their stockings hung by the chimney.  Find inspiration from their stocking designs and holiday fireplace decorations!

  • Stone Elegance

This drama of this huge stone fireplace speaks for itself. The nine matching red and gold stockings keep it simply elegant!

The number of stockings is only matched by the size and drama of the fireplace.

The number of stockings is only matched by the size and drama of the fireplace. Photo courtesy

  • Starring Pair

The sparkle and glow of this pair of stockings are highlighted by the stars and lights on the mantel.

The light and dark contrasts up the impact of this mantel display.

The light and dark contrast ups the impact of this mantel display. Photo courtesy

  • Be Merry

The cream colors, brass fireplace doors, and dark brick fireplace all work so well with this trio of personalized cranberry and hunter green stockings.

Cranberry and hunter green stockings are a classy take on traditional Christmas colors.

Cranberry and hunter green stockings are a classy take on traditional Christmas colors. Photo courtesy

  • Textural Delight

The patchwork stockings capture the texture and variety of the rocks in this awesome fireplace wall. Lights, Christmas balls, and themed stocking hangers coordinate their colors with the stockings’.

Patchwork and applique stockings hang from the mantel of an awesome fireplace.

Patchwork and applique stockings hang from the mantel of an awesome fireplace. Photo courtesy

  • Happy Kitties

Red, green, white and a cheery holiday plaid combine in these smile-inducing, fishy stockings for the felines of the household.

Plaid, fish-shaped stockings join the ones for the humans on this cheery holiday hearth.

Plaid, fish-shaped stockings join the ones for the humans on this cheery holiday hearth. Photo courtesy

  • Purrr-fect Stockings

This jolly mantel and hearth signifies the abundance of Christmas  and the love for all our family members including the furry ones.  Note that each cat’s stocking is labeled with its name.  Eliminates the Christmas morning cat-fights, we’re sure.

Five cat stockings, personalized with each cat's name, are sure to keep Santa busy.

Five cat stockings, personalized with each cat’s name, are sure to keep Santa busy. Photo courtesy

  • Cross Stitched Works of Love

How many tiny stitches went into the creation of these remarkable cross stitched stockings?! Each one unique and all in the same color scheme, these lifetime treasures were handmade by a mom of five teens.

Seven handmade-with-love cross stitched stockings adorn this Christmas mantel.

Seven handmade-with-love cross stitched stockings were hung on this Christmas mantel. Photo courtesy

  • Nifty Novelty Stockings

Santa will have no trouble telling which fun stocking hanging on the impressive stone wall of this fireplace belongs to which family member!  A Christmas ball laden wreath pulls it all together.

Each stocking on this stunning stone fireplace captures the individuality of each family member.

Each stocking on this stunning stone fireplace captures the individuality of each family member. Photo courtesy

  • Grandchildren’s Stockings

What could make a grandmother more delighted at Christmas than to have the grandkids’ stockings, each as individual and charming as the children are, adorning the fireplace?

The grandkids' stockings all hang from the proud grandparent's fireplace mantel.

The grandkids’ stockings all hang from the proud grandparent’s fireplace mantel. Photo courtesy


  • Stacked Stone  & Stockings

The prominent keystone and the arch of this stacked stone fireplace are both repeated in the design of the mantel.  Brass stocking holders echo the brass in the fireplace doors.

The stockings hanging from the mantel of this arched fireplace await Santa's treats.

The stockings hanging from the mantel of this arched fireplace await Santa’s treats. Photo courtesy

  • Stockings Were Hung

Lest there be any doubt, these stockings are officially hung by the chimney with care.  What a clever, convenient and charming way to display the stockings!

This plaque with its own hooks makes it simple to display the family stockings.

This plaque with its own hooks makes it simple to display the family stockings. Photo courtesy

  •  Just in Time for the First Fireplace

A talented grandmother cross-stitched each of these stockings.  The last one was completed just in time to hang on the family’s mantel for their first Christmas with a fireplace!  Atop the mantel is a creche scene.

The cross-stitched stockings were finished just in time.

The cross-stitched stockings were finished just in time. Photo courtesy

All of these Christmas stockings were hung with care and love above the fireplace, the natural gathering place not only of family and friends but also of Santa as he fills those empty stockings. To ready your fireplace for stocking-opening day, update your fireplace screen and replace your fireplace tools if they have seen better days.

Posted in Decorating, Holidays Tagged with: