How to Roast Chestnuts Over an Open Fire (Plus Chestnut Roaster Giveaway!)

by Brett & Kate McKay on November 22, 2011 · 529 comments

in Food & Drink, Travel & Leisure

Wait. Before you begin reading this post, click play on the video below.

Ah, that’s better. Now we’re ready to proceed.

You’ve probably heard the “Christmas Song” hundreds of times in your life, and you’re well familiar with that opening line about “chestnuts roasting on an open fire.”

But how many of us have actually partaken in this holiday tradition? If you’ve never had a warm roasted chestnut, you’re missing out. Chestnuts grow from mid-fall to early-spring, and they peak during the holidays—which is why they’re associated with this time of year. They have a texture kind of like a baked potato, and they’re the only nut that contains vitamin C, so eating some is a good way to ward off winter scurvy if you’ll be spending Christmas sailing as a pirate. The sweet, nutty flavor of chestnuts will warm your manly holiday spirit to the core, and most importantly, roasting them gives you an excuse to do something with fire.

What You Need

The Roaster

Yes, you can roast chestnuts in the oven. But what would be the fun in that? A man never misses a chance to build a fire and cook over it.

To roast your chestnuts, you’ll need a pan that you can put into the fire. Long-handled popcorn or chestnut roasters make the ideal vessels for open fire chestnut roasting, as they allow you to roast the nuts without burning your face off. And their lids let you shake the chestnuts around for even roasting, instead of having to turn them over yourself or losing a few when flipping them in a lid-less pan.

If you don’t have a long-handled roaster, you can get by with a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or some other pan. Just be careful not to burn yourself. If you have an old beat-up skillet, you can turn it into a bona fide chestnut roaster by drilling 30 or so holes in the bottom.

If you don’t have a chestnut roaster or a skillet, you can also use a fireplace shovel. And I suppose you could even try sticking them individually on skewers like the boys in the opening image, if you’re the patient type.

The Chestnuts

You can buy chestnuts at some grocery stores, but you may want to call ahead to make sure they have them. While dozens of chestnut varieties exist, most people roast Castagne and Marroni chestnuts at the holidays. Castagne are more common, while the Marroni are a more expensive specialty. The nut of the Marroni is sweeter and plumper, and it peels away from the skin more easily.

When choosing your chestnuts, look for those that are plump, smooth, shiny, and blemish-free. Moldy chestnuts are a common problem, so squeeze and shake the chestnut to see if the nut has shriveled up and pulled away from the shell.

Keep in mind that the larger the chestnut, the longer it will take to roast. Pick chestnuts that are fairly uniform in size and will thus be done at the same time.

Preparation

Rinse the chestnuts under cold water. Lay them on a towel and pat dry.

Before roasting chestnuts, you must score them to allow steam to escape and prevent them from exploding like chestnut bombs while cooking. Simply take a sharp knife and cut an “X” into the flat side of each chestnut.

Once your chestnuts are clean, dry, and scored, build a warm, cozy fire in the fireplace. Let it burn down so that you have a nice bed of hot embers.

Roasting

Place the chestnuts in a single layer in the pan. No need to add oil or grease; as they cook, the chestnuts will release their own oil.

Cover the pan with a lid and hold it over, but not directly in, the fire. After five minutes or so, shake or stir the chestnuts around, making sure to roast all sides adequately. Repeat this process every few minutes.

I didn’t have time to wait for a proper ember bed, so I did stick the chesnuts directly in the fire somewhat, even though it isn’t reccomended. The outsides got charred, but the insides were mostly okay.

Most chestnuts will fully roast after 25 minutes. A chestnut is fully roasted when the shell starts to open where you made the score mark and you start hearing popping noises. You can also check for doneness by piercing a chestnut with a knife; it should be tender.

Remove the chestnuts and place them in a towel-lined bowl to cool for about 10 minutes. While they’re still warm, remove the shells. The fuzzy inside skin will peel off along with the outer shell.

You can eat the chestnuts plain or dip them in butter and cinnamon for extra holiday flavor and goodness.

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Win a Jacob Bromwell Chestnut Roaster

The folks at Jacob Bromwell sent me one of their chestnut roasters so I could fulfill my dream of finally trying this classic holiday tradition. And they also offered to give away one of their roasters to a lucky AoM reader as well.

Established in 1819, Jacob Bromwell is America’s oldest cookware company. All of their kitchen and campfire cookware is handcrafted and made in America, just like it was almost 200 years ago. And all their products are backed by a lifetime guarantee.

Their sturdy, authentic chestnut roasters have a nice wooden handle to keep your hands cool, and they can also be used to pop popcorn in the fire, if chestnuts aren’t your thing. The roaster will surely be enjoyed by your family for decades of holiday fun.

Entering to win one of these old fashioned roasters is easy. Just leave a comment giving us your thoughts on chestnuts or simply sharing your favorite holiday tradition.

Contest is over. Winner will be selected shortly.

501 Juan Jacoby November 29, 2011 at 12:19 pm

I absolutely love Xmas songs and always wondered how to roast chestnuts. I’m claiming a Jacoby family tradition today and roasting them this year and forever on. Merry Xmas everyone !!!

502 Yuriy November 29, 2011 at 12:45 pm

We do roast chestnuts regularly during the season in an electric oven. It would be great to try the real deal!

503 Matt B. November 29, 2011 at 2:02 pm

I have never roasted chestnuts but my wife’s family did. She’d love to start roasting some on our outdoor fireplace.

504 Andrew S November 29, 2011 at 2:38 pm

I just added this to the list of things I’m going to do when my lady friend visits over christmas. Much obliged.

505 Michael November 29, 2011 at 2:53 pm

I’ve never roasted chestnuts on an open fire and never really experienced Jack Frost nipping at my nose.

506 Robert A November 29, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Im from N.Y.C. and have never went a holiday season with out cooking chestnuts.I cook them in a cast iron skillet on the stove or in the oven.I do not have a fire place but i do have a chiminea with an open flame.I think that could work.

507 Paul November 29, 2011 at 4:16 pm

I am glad I am getting to leave a comment before the contest finishes. Roasted chestnuts seem like an amazing tradition that I would love to try.

508 Brian November 29, 2011 at 4:17 pm

I found some fallen chestnuts in my neighborhood one year. Took them home, boiled ‘em, mashed ‘em, put ‘em in a stew.

509 Jushitn November 29, 2011 at 4:26 pm

A favorite thing of mine to do during the holiday season is travel down to Hotel Del Coronado with good friends of mine. the place is decked out in Christmas lights and still retains that old timey feel that I appreciate so much. And afterwards: TACOS!

510 Seth November 29, 2011 at 4:53 pm

my favorite holiday tradition is cookie day. i never had this tradition before i met my old lady, but apparently you just make cookies, all day. hours and hours of baking, all types, and fudge oh the fudge. then, you get to eat those cookies. best tradition ever!

511 Matthew H November 29, 2011 at 5:18 pm

This Christmas is going to be strange, because it’s the first after my grandparents passed away. The time is ripe for new traditions!

512 Tyler G November 29, 2011 at 7:05 pm

One of my favorite traditions is reading A Christmas Carol every Christmas, along with a hot cup of Glogg or eggnog…

513 Samahn Soleimanian November 29, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Thanks for the tutorial. I just bought some chestnuts from the supermarket and I’m going to roast them for the first time in my house for the holidays! And I love the song choice!

514 Ryan Cobin November 29, 2011 at 8:59 pm

roasting chestnuts is something I want to try out. I am still young enough to work on what my traditions are going to be

515 Stephen L. November 29, 2011 at 10:02 pm

I’ve only roasted chestnuts once in my life. It was in Greece about 3 years ago when I was meeting my Greek family for the first time. They just put the chestnuts in the fireplace (After prep) and let them roast away. Great fun and had a nice flavor to it.

516 Ann November 29, 2011 at 10:53 pm

I love American made stuff. Everything we bought that made in the USA last a few decades if not a lifetime. I read a lot of positive reviews about this chestnut roaster and love to owe one in the future.

517 Matt W. November 29, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Gave this a try a little charred, but delicious! Thank you!

518 Austen B. November 29, 2011 at 11:20 pm

I had actually never heard of chestnuts until I heard the song “Chestnuts Roasting Over An Open Fire.”

519 Ann November 29, 2011 at 11:37 pm

I love American made stuff. Everything we bought that made in the USA last a few decades if not a lifetime. I read a lot of positive reviews about this chestnut roaster and love to owe one in the future. We have never roasted chestnuts before, but now the kids are a little older and will be able to spend all these fun toasting chestnuts time together.

520 Dychi November 30, 2011 at 4:05 pm

I had never tried chestnuts until I went up to visit family in Michigan a few years back during winter. The relatives up there not only roasted chestnuts, but shot and cooked a deer as well. Best venison I’ve ever had.

521 Chris November 30, 2011 at 5:20 pm

My favorite Xmas memory: the family party on my dad’s side. His dad had 14 siblings. When that extended family got together on Xmas Eve, it filled a union hall! Back in the ’60s, the cigarette smoke could be cut with a knife, the oyster stew flowed, and the children ran and ran and ran and nobody cared.

522 David November 30, 2011 at 6:56 pm

I have never had chestnuts, sounds like it would be a great new family tradition.

523 KC Bess December 1, 2011 at 12:20 am

Thanks for this article. I have been wondering about how this was done.

524 David Lenton December 1, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire has always been a nostalgic lyric for me, though I’ve never had the chance myself. Looks to be something to rekindle.

525 Tarcas December 1, 2011 at 10:32 pm

My mother used to get a basket of mixed nuts (in shells) at Christmastime, but we never roasted the chestnuts. I’d love to give it a try, if only I had a fireplace.

526 Brandon Cook December 2, 2011 at 3:04 am

This is one of the great traditions I’d like to start with my family. That and the Yule Log. We got the Turkey thing down and I can cut it up pretty well thanks to AoM. This will be our second Christmas together and It’s great being able to start our own traditions.

527 Vito Tededchi December 2, 2011 at 12:22 pm

I’ve never roasted chestnuts, but I have a pretty sweet fire pit and I’d love to hear those chestnuts POP, POP, POP!

528 Will December 3, 2011 at 1:53 am

Chestnuts. I remember my first chestnut. It was on the lap of my ole’ grandaddy. I was but a wee lad in his presence while he monitored my technique. I had grown up observing him and my own father make them for the whole family. For years we would gather around the cozy fire. The living room filled with loved ones filled me with an inward warmth so great it could only be complimented with that of an actual toasty nut running rampant through my body. Oh chestnuts, how I long for thee. Be to me the sweet nectar that only Christmas has to offer.

529 Dave December 4, 2011 at 5:02 pm

We just got our fireplace back in working order so it would be fun to add that to a tradition.
Every year we will put on the classic Santa Claus movie, MST3K version. And Christmas day play old Christmas records as well as watch the yule log on tv.

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