How to Roast and Peel Chestnuts
Forget the open fire. It's easy to prepare great roasted chestnuts in the oven.
By Layla Khoury-Hanold for Food Network Kitchen
Layla is a contributing writer at Food Network.
Whether you’re already listening to Bing Crosby, or you're catching the wafting smells from street-corner vendors, chestnuts roasting on an open fire can be top of mind as the weather cools down. Chestnuts are a versatile, healthy ingredient that can add sweet or savory flair to your holiday table. And to get the time-honored flavor, all you need is a sheet pan and your oven. Here’s everything you need to know about how to roast chestnuts.
How to Buy Fresh Chestnuts
When it comes to roasting chestnuts, it’s important to only work with fresh chestnuts. Canned or jarred chestnuts have a different consistency, and won’t yield that same result. Some methods call for soaking chestnuts in water before roasting them. But if they are truly fresh, soaking is unnecessary.
Wynn Las Vegas’ executive chef Kelly Bianchi, whom roasts chestnuts to order at her night market at the Durham in North Carolina, recommends looking for chestnuts that are firm, shiny and heavy for their size. Wrinkled or dull-looking chestnuts are old and nearly impossible to peel. She recommends storing fresh chestnuts in a cold, dry environment (excess moisture can lead to mold) and using them within a month of their harvest.
How to Roast Chestnuts
1. Score the Chestnuts
Put the chestnuts flat-side down on a steady surface and use a sharp paring knife to "score," or cut an X-shape into the rounded side of each nut. Cut deep enough to pierce the skin without cutting into the nutmeat. This will keep them from exploding.
2. Place the Chestnuts In a Single Layer
Place the chestnuts on a baking sheet in an even layer. Don't crowd your pan.
3. Roast Until Tender
Roast for 30 to 45 minutes in a 425 degrees F oven until the skins have curled and pulled back, and the nutmeats have softened. Cooking time can vary depending on size, so rely on visual cues to determine doneness.
4. Check for Doneness
To check if they're ready, poke your knife through the opening where the skin has pulled back. It should easily pierce through.
5. Peel the Skin with Your Hands
Cool the chestnuts completely, then peel the skin off with your hands. Use a paring knife, if necessary, for stubborn skins.
“Chestnuts have a subtle, mellow flavor that’s easily overwhelmed by strong flavors or too much acid,” Reusing says. “Fat is where it’s at: brown butter, olive oil or cream.” Bianchi is a fan of brown butter too, pairing it with sage for an on-point fall flavor duo.
Roasted chestnuts’ flavor profile lends it to recipes both savory and sweet. Bianchi makes a chestnut cream to garnish roasted squash soup. She also uses them to make a pureed, sweetened chestnut paste, the signature ingredient used in the classic dessert of Mont Blanc. At The Durham, Reusing makes a nutty flour for noodles and turns roasted chestnuts into a caramel that’s served alongside buckwheat cookies at dessert. At Lantern, she makes a steamed chestnut sticky rice for a bibimbap base and a sought-after dessert of chestnut frozen custard topped with candied chestnuts.
Try these recipes to bring that classic flavor to your holiday table:
Ready to take things next level? Serve this Chestnut Soup with Fried Parsley as an elegant appetizer. Or end the meal with a dramatic dessert of Drunken Chestnuts, in which roasted chestnuts are flambéed with rum and sugar, or Roger Mooking’s guaranteed-to-impress Fire Roasted Chestnut Caramel Cookies.