Roasting Chestnuts over an open fire or charcoal is a great holiday entertainment idea, as well as a delicious snack. This easy guide will walk you through the tools needed and a delicious Roasted Chestnut recipe that will make you a holiday hero.
Picture this: you’re hosting a holiday party, and decide to move the grill to the front yard as you welcome your guests and throw on some chestnuts so that aroma fills the air while your friends and family arrive. Instant holiday vibes!
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire aren’t just the lyrics to the Christmas Song, made famous by the great Nat King Cole. It’s also a fantastic treat to make during the holiday season! Not only will they fill your home with an incredible aroma, but the actual chestnuts are quite delicious.
Fresh Chestnuts are harvested in North America in the late fall and are a great addition for holiday entertaining. Start looking for fresh chestnuts in late October and mid November. Likely fresh chestnuts will be in stores until late December.
Where to Buy Chestnuts
Fresh chestnuts best used for roasting have the shell on and usually found in the produce section of a grocer. Farmer’s markets will likely have them as well.
Chef’s Tip: When roasting chestnuts, buy them as close to the day you are roasting them so they are fresh.
If using the oven, the key tool needed for roasted chestnuts is a cast iron pan. If using a fire, which we highly recommend, some important tools to make the roasting experience easier and safe.
- High Heat Welding Style Gloves – This is important to avoid burning hands when the fire and heat are several hundred degrees. Protect those hands!
- Cast Iron Pan – A cast iron pan can handle the heat.
- Open Fire Pit or Grill – Because the cast iron pan is large, in addition to having a handle, using an open fire pit or large grill is key. Another option is using your fireplace.
- Sharp Paring or Serrated Knife – A key to successfully roasted chestnuts is to score the nuts, a sharp paring or serrated knife makes this much easier.
Preparing Chestnuts for Roasting
Chestnuts are a soft nut surrounded by a hard shell. The nut has a fair amount of moisture and steams when cooking. To avoid the chestnut from exploding it’s important to prepare the chestnut for cooking over an open fire.
One side of the shell is typically flat while the other is rounded. Be sure the nuts are fresh and uncut when buying.
Score the flat side of the chestnut with a paring or serrated knife with an X-pattern. The cut can be shallow so as to just expose inside the nut casing. This will allow for the steam to escape. Only one side needs the scoring.
Be Sure To Score the Chestnuts to Avoid Them From ExplodingChef’s Tip
As the chestnuts roast, the shell will expand, making too large of an X may cause the nut to come out of the shell and burn in the pan. Avoid that.
How Do You Roast Chestnuts On a Fire?
Start with hot lump charcoal or a good bed of hot embers in an open log fire pit.
- Lay out just enough charcoal that the cast iron pan will set atop the embers, but not the handle. Setting a large grill for indirect cooking is an easy way to do this.
- Score the chestnuts.
- Using a seasoned cast iron pan, layout just enough chestnuts to cover the pan. The scored side should be facing up. This allows the shell to absorb all the high heat first.
- Place the pan over the coals. Allow the cast iron pan to heat up with the chestnuts in the pan.
- After 5 minutes in the pan over the embers, begin to stir the chestnuts.
- Stir occasionally for an additional 5 – 7 minutes.
- Remove from the fire. When cool enough to handle, remove the outer hard shell, then serve warm with a touch of Maldon finishing salt.
How Long to Roast Chestnuts
Over fire, roasted chestnuts will cook in 10 – 12 minutes if the shell is on (faster if the shell is off). When roasting over fire we do recommend using the shell as a buffer to absorb the heat.
What do Roasted Chestnuts Taste Like?
Roasted Chestnuts will be soft, buttery, and slightly nutty. These mild flavored nuts have a lot of moisture and make for a nice chewy bite.
Finish with a good quality finishing salt for extra flavor, or some melted butter.
How to Serve and Store Chestnuts
After roasting chestnuts, they are best served the same day as roasting. Simply place them in a dish and have guests remove the shell and eat. Have an empty dish to collect the shells. The presentation is part of the roasted chestnut experience.
If they are not all consumed, then store in an airtight baggie and rewarm gently over a low heat with some butter or oil within two days. Because the moisture is cooked out during the roasting process, they don’t reheat well.
Other Holiday Ideas
- Pairing Wine with a Holiday Rib Roast
- Grilled Beef Skewers with Cranberry Sauce
- Porchetta on the Grill
- Smoked Prime Rib with Horseradish Butter
Recipe for Roasted Chestnuts Over Fire
Roasted Chestnuts over Open Fire
- High Heat BBQ gloves or Welders Gloves
- Cast Iron Pan
- 1 pound fresh chestnuts in shell
- 1 teaspoon Maldon finishing salt (or sea salt)
- Preheat grill using two zone method with lump charcoal or embers from a wood fire in a fire pit.
- Score the flat side of the chestnut shell with a sharp paring knife.
- In a large cast iron pan, distribute the chestnuts with the scored side facing up, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Typically 1 pound of chestnuts are cooked in two waves.
- Place the pan over the hot coals or embers. Leave the pan for 5 – 7 minutes or until a slight nutty aroma comes from the nuts. Some small smoking may occur and is normal.
- Stir the nuts and allow to continue roasting in the pan for an additional 5 – 7 minutes. no need to move the pan.
- Remove the pan from the coals using welding gloves (pan will be HOT) and put roasted chestnuts in a serving dish. Repeat for additional batches.
- Serve warm with a dash of Maldon finishing salt.
*This recipe was originally published in December of 2014, and updated in December 2019 with new photos and more detailed instructions.