Roasting Chestnuts Over An Open Fire

Explains how to roast chestnuts over an open fire. Includes information on the type of chestnuts and pans to use for roasting.

A popular, old-world fall, winter, and Christmas tradition is to serve hot chestnuts to family and friends. Roasting chestnuts over an open fire is easy to do if you follow this simple procedure.

The most important item to have when roasting chestnuts is the proper pan. Although any type of frying pan with a lid will do, you will have to modify it for roasting purposes. Specifically, you will need to drill holes into the bottom of the pan. This allows the chestnuts to roast properly. For a 12-inch pan, there should be about 25-30 holes in the pan, each hole having a 3/6-inch diameter. The holes should also be spaced apart evenly. Once you have modified your pan, wash it and set it aside. You now need to prepare the chestnuts.

When purchasing chestnuts at a store, select chestnuts that are similar in size. For a more flavorful dish, you can purchase the larger "Maroni"-type chestnuts. Bear in mind, however, that due to their size these chestnuts will take longer to roast. Once you have purchased your chestnuts and have them at home, wash them in cold water and allow them to dry. When dry, sort the chestnuts again to further categorize them by size for cooking.

When you are ready to roast the chestnuts, take chestnuts of a like size and place them into the pan ensuring that the bottom of the pan is covered in a single layer with the chestnuts. Next, you will need to take each chestnut in the pan and place a cut into its skin using a sharp knife. This is done so that the chestnut releases steam while cooking and does not explode. To prepare a cut in the chestnut, hold the chestnut in your hand with its tip facing upward and its flat surface towards you. Take a small, sharp and pointed knife and slice into the chestnut's skin from left to right making sure that you do not cut into the chestnut's meat. The cut should be no larger than 3/8 to 1/2-inch in length. Once the chestnuts have been cut, prepare your campfire or barbecue grill. If you are using a campfire, make sure that you have something to support the pan -- do not place the pan directly into an open fire. Also, the campfire or grill must be very hot before placing the pan onto it and a flame must not be present. When the temperature is correct, place the pan with the chestnuts on the grill. Note that you do not need to add any oil or grease to the pan because as the chestnuts roast they will release steam and their own cooking oils. Cover the pan and roast the chestnuts for a few minutes. After awhile, remove the lid and stir the chestnuts so that they do not roast only on one side. This process of covering, roasting, removing the lid, stirring, and re-covering must be repeated frequently throughout the roasting process. For an average size chestnut, about the size of a U.S. half-dollar coin, the roasting time is approximately 20-25 minutes. You will know when the chestnuts are cooked when they appear darker in color and if, when you remove a chestnut from the pan, its skin breaks easily making a crackling sound.

Once the chestnuts are roasted, take a large bowl and line it with paper towels. Place the roasted chestnuts into the bowl and cover them with a cloth. The chestnuts should sit in their own heat for approximately 2-4 minutes as this makes them easier to peel. After they have sat awhile, they are ready to be eaten. Chestnuts are best when served hot and when accompanied by apple cider or fruit juice.

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