Chestnuts On An Open Fire - And Other Ways To Cook The Holiday Favorite

Chestnuts Cooking On An Open Fire
(Image credit: kabVisio)

Roasted chestnuts are not the popular treat they once were, but it’s a worthy endeavor to bring back an old time feel in the home. What is the best way to roast chestnuts? Well, first make sure you have harvested the correct variety. Edible chestnuts are very different from horse chestnuts, which should not be consumed. 

How To Prepare Chestnuts

Roasting chestnuts by an open fire was a common treat in our great grandparents’ time. But during 1904, a terrible blight affected the American chestnut and decimated much of their population. The trees have been reestablished in recent decades and now are more common. If you are new to the food, keep reading to learn how to harvest and store chestnuts. 

Ways to Roast Chestnuts at Home

The "open fire" is not as common an option in modern life, but you can roast chestnuts in the oven, or use a microwave or boiling water. The nuts need to be pierced a few times or cut an X into the skin to let the steam out. Chestnuts can often be found at Farmer's markets or on a stroll around your neighborhood. Be sure you are foraging for the edible nut which has a husk with short bristles. 

Horse chestnuts should not be eaten. They have fan-like leaves and the fruit has sharp, stiff bristles. Horse chestnuts are very prickly, whereas the edible variety has softer burrs. 

Chestnuts do not have a long refrigerator life and are best eaten freshly harvested or purchased. 

What is the Best Way to Roast Chestnuts

After piercing the husk, you can place nuts in a long handled pan with holes in the bottom and put them over a campfire. Roast chestnuts at home in an oven preheated to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (163 C). Roast chestnuts in the oven take 15 to 20 minutes. They should be stirred frequently. Roasting gives the best flavor, but you can also lay them on a damp paper towel and roast for a couple minutes in a microwave. Dry nuts benefit from steaming. To roast chestnuts on the stove top use a cast iron pan. Keep the nuts moving for 15 minutes, and then cover with a bit of water that boils until it is evaporated. They can also be boiled for 5 minutes and then peeled. 

How to Harvest and Store Chestnuts

Ripe nuts are mature when they start falling from the tree. Harvesting starts in September through October. The nuts are high in starch and should be used fairly quickly. If you are preserving them for a while, wash and spread the nuts out to dry. Check for discolored nuts and discard. The dried husk should be very hard. Store nuts in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. You can also freeze them for a few months before use. Let frozen nuts thaw in the refrigerator and blot away any excess moisture before roasting.

Bonnie L. Grant

Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.