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How To Roast Chestnuts On An Open Fire

How To Roast Chestnuts On An Open Fire

Roasting chestnuts on an open fire is one of the most wonderful Christmas traditions. 

You can easily make this heartwarming treat in your fireplace, on a campfire, on an open fire grill or in an outdoor fire pit.

Chestnuts roasted on an open fire turn out sweet with incredible slightly smoky flavor and earthy firewood aroma. 

Combine it with classic Christmas song “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire” and you have the most memorable Holidays filled with winter charm and romance.

If you don’t have an open fire you can roast chestnuts in the oven while learning all the tricks for super soft and easy peel.

Ingredients & Tools You Need

roasting chestnuts on an open fire
  • Chestnuts and a handful of coarse salt. Make sure to buy good quality chestnuts that don’t smell nor show any signs of mold. Fresh chestnuts are firm and heavy to touch, they have slightly glossy brown shell. They should NOT rattle when you shake them.
  • Small sharp knife for scoring chestnuts before roasting. If you love roasting chestnuts make yourself a gift – buy an Italian Chestnut Knife.
    It is designed specifically for scoring and peeling chestnuts and it’ll serve you a lifetime. But, please, avoid this kind of chestnut cutter, unless you want to waste money.
  • Suitable pan for chestnut roasting.
    Chestnut Roasting Pan – is a pan designed specifically for roasting chestnuts on an open fire. It has characteristic holes in the bottom that help cook chestnuts and a long handle that prevents your hands from burning.
    Cast Iron Skillet will also work great since it helps with even cooking (without the holes) and resists high temperatures). You can cook chestnuts in a cast iron skillet directly on coals or place over a grilling stand/pan holder.
    Grilling Skillet that you would normally use for grilling veggies is also a great alternative to classic chestnuts pan. It has has same characteristic holes in the bottom to help cook chestnuts on fire. It’s also a much cheaper alternative to the first two. 
    Old sheet pan or iron pan. Indeed, for roasting chestnuts on an open fire even an old rusty iron pan or sheet pan will work.
    Cast Iron Casserole is another alternative. 
    Aluminum foil or tin foil. If you have a grilling rack you can even get away wrapping scored chestnuts in several layers of tin foil and roasting them that way.
    Pans that WON’T work: Teflon or other kinds of pans with non-stick coating. Pan with a plastic or short wooden handle.
  • Fireplace, campfire, fire pit or grill.

How To Roast Chestnuts On An Open Fire

There are 2 ways how you can roast chestnuts on an open fire: direct and indirect.

Regardless of the method you choose you’ll need to prepare chestnuts for roasting and light the fire.

Start The Fire

starting fire for chestnut roasting

Whether you’re roasting in a fireplace, campfire or a grill start them going first.

In the meantime prepare the chestnuts.

Rinse & Score Chestnuts

how to score chestnuts
  • Wash chestnuts under cold running water. This step can be omitted if you have perfect fresh, clean looking chestnuts or don’t have water available. 
    You won’t be eating the outer shell at the end of the day. However it’s best to quickly wash chestnuts before roasting to remove any dust or dirt since once chestnuts are roasted you’ll be peeling them with bare hands.
  • Using a small sharp knife or Italian Chestnut Knife make a long slit cut across the rounded side of a chestnut. You can also make an X cut but I find it requires more work plus makes chestnuts harder to peel.
    TOP TIP: Try not to cut too deep into the nut as it’ll make them harder to peel! 
  • Discard any cracked or moldy chestnuts.
  • Arrange scored chestnuts in the pan in a single layer or slightly overlapping (chestnuts will shrink a little as they cook). Sprinkle with salt (optional).

Roast Chestnuts On Fire: Direct Method – Over Flames

  • Place the pan with chestnuts over the flames. You can hand-held if you’re roasting in a chestnut pan with a long handle or place a pan on a pan holder. 
    The flames should be about 2 feet away from the chestnuts, otherwise they’ll burn before cooking through.
  • Shake the pan and toss chestnuts frequently. Once they start to open up and get light burn marks from the fire, taste for doneness. Depending on the size of the chestnuts and the roasting pan you use it might take 12-15 minutes for chestnuts to roast.
  • Once ready, put chestnuts in a brown bag or a kitchen towel and let rest for 10 minutes before eating. If it’s cold outside wrap the bag with a towel or a blanket.

Roast Chestnuts On Fire: Indirect Method – Over Bed Of Coals (Best Result!)

This method takes a little longer than roasting chestnuts over flames but it gives the best results in terms of flavor. And it’s also easier to handle (basically just watch) the whole process!

roasting chestnuts on hot coals
  • Let the fire burn down to embers.
    TOP TIP: If you’re roasting in a fireplace or on a campfire you can still keep the fire going and roast chestnuts at the same time. Simply wait until you have enough hot embers to put your chestnut over and set them slightly on the side of the main fire.
  • Place a pan with scored chestnuts over a bed of hot coals. You can put the pan directly on coals or better yet on a low pan holder. As an alternative you can arrange a DIY pan holder rack with 3 stones or bricks to slightly elevate the pan over the hot coals.
  • Roast chestnuts for about 20-25 minutes, tossing and shaking the pan from time to time.
  • Taste chestnuts once they start to get colored.
    If they char too much but taste still raw on the inside, remove some coals from under the pan to reduce the heat and prevent chestnuts from burning. Roast for a few more minutes.
putting chestuts in a brown bag after roasting
  • Once cooked, transfer chestnuts in a brown bag and let rest for 10 minutes.
    This way the steam created inside will help chestnuts peel better, plus you won’t burn your hands peeling the chestnuts.
    TOP TIP: Even if you’re not going to consume all chestnuts in one go, make sure you peel ALL roasted chestnuts while they’re still warm. They’ll be much harder to peel once they cool.

Roast Chestnuts On A Grill

If you want to make grilled chestnuts follow all the same step for preparing and scoring chestnuts.

  • Heat up the grill to 400F (200C).
    You can use gas or charcoal grill for grilling chestnuts.
  • Place scored chestnuts in a grilling basket, grilling topper, cast iron pan or chestnuts roasting pan. Grill chestnuts for 10-15 minutes flipping them at least couple of times for even cooking.
  • Taste after the first 10 minutes and adjust the cooking times as needed.
  • Once ready, place grilled chestnuts in a paper bag, preferably wrap it with another towel and let rest for 10 minutes before eating.

How Many Chestnuts Per Person?

Depending on how much one person would eat 🙂

Consider 1 pound (450 grams) contains about 35-40 chestnuts (depending on the size). This quantity should be enough to snack for 3-4 people.

What Do Fire Roasted Chestnuts Taste Like?

Chestnuts roasted over an open fire taste very similar to chestnuts roasted in the oven. They are soft, sweet and a little chewy with an extra firewood aroma and incredible light char.

Top Tips & Tricks For Roasting Chestnuts On An Open Fire

  • Make sure all chestnuts are scored. Unscored chestnuts will explode once placed over the heat!
  • Try not to cut too deep into the nut as it’ll make them harder to peel! 
  • Chestnuts roasted on an open fire can be easily burned. Make sure to shake and stir chestnuts often.
  • Try one chestnut to check for doneness after 10 minutes and adjust the cooking time.
  • Chestnut cooking time depends on their size too! The bigger the chestnuts the more time it takes to cook them.
  • If chestnuts start to char too much, remove from direct fire or remove a part of hot coals from under the pan with chestnuts.
  • It’s best to roast chestnuts over hot coals rather than oven direct flames. Direct flames burn chestnuts faster while they might be still raw inside.
  • Slightly undercooked chestnuts is not an issue if this is how you like them, slightly crunchy rather than soft, chewy and creamy. NOTE: you should NOT eat raw chestnuts.
  • If you don’t have a campfire stand or a pan holder, use stones or bricks to elevate the pan from fire.
  • If you want to peel chestnuts easily, make sure to wrap chestnuts in paper or place in a brown bag, preferably covered with a towel right after roasting. Let rest for 10-15 minutes before you start eating them.
  • Roasted chestnuts taste best with a glass of red wine.
roasted chestnuts with a glass of red wine

Other Ways To Cook Chestnuts

  • Boil chestnuts. Boiling is the the best cooking method for chestnut quality that won’t peel no matter what you do. It also makes the soften and creamiest chestnuts out of all methods. You can boil chestnuts if you need to use them in the recipes too.
  • Roast chestnuts in the oven. The best way to roast chestnuts at home without an open fire or grill. Use my trick to have soft and easy peeling oven roasted chestnuts.
roasted chestnuts on an open fire

How To Roast Chestnuts On An Open Fire or Grill

Chestnuts roasted on an open fire is one of the most delicious treats. Learn 3 easy ways how you can roast chestnuts on an open fire.
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Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Course: Snack
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fresh chestnuts, 450-500 g
  • 1 tbsp coarse salt optional

Instructions

Start The Fire

  • Whether you’re roasting in a fireplace, campfire or a grill start them going first.
    In the meantime prepare the chestnuts.

Rinse & Score Chestnuts

  • Wash chestnuts under cold running water.
    1 lb fresh chestnuts,
  • Using a small sharp knife or Italian Chestnut Knife make a long slit cut across the rounded side of a chestnut.
    TOP TIP: Try not to cut too deep into the nut as it’ll make it harder to peel!
    Discard any cracked or moldy chestnuts.
    Arrange scored chestnuts in the pan in a single layer or slightly overlapping (chestnuts will shrink a little as they cook). Sprinkle with salt.
    1 tbsp coarse salt

Roast Chestnuts On Fire: Direct Method – Over Flames

  • Place the pan with chestnuts over the fire. You can hand-held if you’re roasting in a chestnut pan with a long handle or place a pan on a pan holder.
    The flames should be about 2 feet away from the chestnuts, otherwise they’ll burn before cooking through.
  • Shake the pan and toss chestnuts frequently. Once they start to open up and get light burn marks from the fire, taste for doneness. Depending on the size of the chestnuts and the roasting pan you use it might take 12-15 minutes for chestnuts to roast.
  • Once ready, put chestnuts in a brown bag or a kitchen towel and let rest for 10 minutes before eating. If it’s cold outside wrap the bag with a towel or a blanket.

Roast Chestnuts On Fire: Indirect Method – Over Bed Of Hot Coals (Best Result!)

  • Let the fire burn down to embers.
    TOP TIP: If you’re roasting in a fireplace or on a campfire you can still keep the fire going and roast chestnuts at the same time. Simply wait until you have enough hot embers to put your chestnut over and set them slightly on the side of the main fire.
  • Place a pan with scored chestnuts over a bed of hot coals. You can put the pan directly on coals or better yet on a low pan holder. As an alternative you can arrange a DIY pan holder rack with 3 stones or bricks to slightly elevate the pan over the hot coals.
  • Roast chestnuts for about 20-25 minutes, tossing and shaking the pan from time to time.
    Taste chestnuts once they start to get colored.
  • If they char too much but taste still raw on the inside, remove some coals from under the pan to reduce the heat and prevent chestnuts from burning. Roast for a few more minutes.
  • Once cooked, transfer chestnuts in a brown bag and let rest for 10 minutes.
    This way the steam created inside will help chestnuts peel better, plus you won’t burn your hands peeling the chestnuts.

Roast Chestnuts On A Grill

  • If you want to make grilled chestnuts follow all the same step for preparing and scoring chestnuts.
  • Heat up the grill to 400F (200C).
    You can use gas or charcoal grill for grilling chestnuts.
  • Place scored chestnuts in a grilling basket, grilling topper, cast iron pan or chestnuts roasting pan. Grill chestnuts for 10-15 minutes flipping them at least couple of times for even cooking.
  • Taste after the first 10 minutes and adjust the cooking times as needed.
  • Once ready, place grilled chestnuts in a paper bag, preferably wrap it with another towel and let rest for 10 minutes before eating.

Notes

Even if you’re not going to consume all chestnuts in one go, make sure you peel ALL roasted chestnuts while they’re still warm. They’ll be much harder to peel once they cool.
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This is all it takes to roast chestnuts on an open fire or prepare easy grilled chestnuts for a perfect heartwarming winter snack.

How To Roast Chestnuts On An Open Fire

Buon Appetito!

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