I love chestnuts. When autumn arrives I can´t resist preparing them over and over again, and if it wasn´t because they have so many calories I would be roasting chestnuts all day long 🙂
In Spain, it is tradition to eat chestnuts when celebrating the all saints holiday. It´s celebrated each year on the 31st of October. In Cadiz where I’m from, we call it “tosantos”. During these dates, different market stalls decorate and consume all types of nuts, one of which is of course roasted chestnuts. At this time of year, it´s very common to find, on the streets, little stalls that cook chestnuts on an open wood fire in large pans which contain holes.
This is the best way to prepare them, the chestnut skins end up toasted, making them super easy to peel and the flavour they acquire when roasting on the wood is incomparable.
The bad side with this method is that it is difficult to do at home since it’s not often that we have a wood fire and also because it generates a lot of smoke. So unless you have a fireplace where you can prepare them or make them on a bonfire as Nat King Cole sang in “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire”, it would be best to look for an alternative way of cooking them 😉
HOW TO COOK CHESTNUTS AT HOME
I have prepared chestnuts in many different ways, but these are the three methods that I use the most frequently. Each of them has its advantages and disadvantages but they are all interesting because they allow us to adapt the cooking method to the utensils that we have at hand and the time we have available 🙂
The three ways to roast chestnuts at home are:
- On the stove.
- In the microwave.
- In the oven.
Now we will see in detail each of these methods but before it is important to highlight a point that they all have in common.
Before roasting the chestnuts you always have to make a cut to prevent them from bursting.
HOW TO CUT CHESTNUTS BEFORE ROASTING
Chestnuts contain water and when we roast them this water starts to evaporate.
If before roasting we don’t make a cut in the shell of the chestnut the steam that is generated has nowhere to go, so it begins to concentrate under the skin and the pressure inside the chestnut begins to increase.
If we heat them long enough the pressure will reach a point where it will burst the chestnut violently. If we have them in the oven or microwave we run the risk of breaking the glass of the door. But the worst situation of all, can be, if they burst when we open the door or while we cook them on the stove, which can hurt us a lot.
So remember. ALWAYS before roasting chestnuts we should cut them from side to side.
Some people like to make two cuts with an X shape, but the truth is that a simple cut from side to side is more than enough. Also, although it seems silly, when we have to cut many chestnuts it is a bit tiring and if instead of a cut we have to give two, it gets even worse.
In any case, even if we make a cut or two, the most important thing is that the cut reaches the end of the shell to make sure that the steam can be released.
To open the chestnuts we can use special tongs like the ones in this photo:
Or we can also use a sharp knife.
If we cut them with a knife we must hold the chestnut well with one hand and with the knife in the other hand make the cut very carefully because it can slide easily and we can cut ourselves.
HOW TO COOK CHESTNUTS ON THE STOVE
To cook on the stove we can use a pan, a frying pan, a cast iron skillet or a chestnut pan with large-sized holes in the bottom.
This special pan works out really well when roasting the chestnuts on an open fire since the flames pass through the holes and the chestnuts roast and obtain a very intense flavour, which is this methods biggest advantage. But if what you have at home is a ceramic hob or an induction hob, this pan won’t help you, so it’s best to just use a normal pan.
This way of cooking has the disadvantage that the pan often gets very dirty and depending on the type of pan you use, you may not be able to clean it properly or it will cost you a lot to remove any remains from the pan.
To roast the chestnuts on the stove make a cut from side to side as we have previously seen above.
Put the chestnuts in a pan. If you use a frying pan with holes put the pan over medium heat. Do not raise the heat too high as you can burn them on the outside before they cook inside.
If you use a frying pan without holes put the pan over medium-high heat.
Let the chestnuts roast, stirring from time to time so that they toast well on all sides. In about 25 – 30 minutes they will be roasted, although the time will vary depending on the temperature.
HOW TO COOK CHESTNUTS IN THE MICROWAVE
This is the best way to roast chestnuts if you’re in a hurry. Its main advantage is precisely its simplicity and speed, the other methods don’t even come close in terms of cooking time.
On the other hand, it has the disadvantage that you can’t make many chestnuts at the same time, I make about 15 in each batch, although this depends on the capacity of each microwave.
Another drawback is that by not having a source of direct heat the chestnuts do not acquire the same taste as when we prepare them in the oven or in a pan but they are still delicious and my children love them.
To roast the chestnuts in the microwave we have to cut them from side to side as we have seen.
Then we place them in a microwave-safe container, add a pinch of coarse salt and place the container in the microwave.
In an 800 watt (W) power microwave we can cook 12-15 chestnuts in 2 and a half minutes.
In a 1000-watt (W) microwave the time is reduced to only 2 minutes.
If your microwave has more power you will have to do the test yourself to see what amount of time you need or if you need to reduce the power.
In my house, with 800 watts they always turn out great with 2 and a half minutes. But remember that this is for about 12-15 chestnuts. If you want to do more you will have to increase the time or do several batches.
ROASTING CHESTNUTS IN OVEN
For me, without a doubt, this is the best way to cook chestnuts. Its main advantage is that you can cook many chestnuts at the same time and if we turn the oven grill on we can also toast the chestnuts and they acquire much more aroma and flavour than when we make them in the microwave.
The main disadvantage of this cooking method is that the oven is usually more expensive (consumes more electricity) and it is also slow because apart from the cooking time we must add the time to pre-heat the oven.
Down below you can see how to cook chestnuts in the oven step by step. But first, let’s see a final section on cooking time.
HOW LONG TO ROAST CHESTNUTS
The time of cooking or baking will depend above all on the temperature. We have seen that in a pan the intensity of the heat will mark how long we should cook the chestnuts.
In the case of using a microwave, the power of the appliance and the number of chestnuts determine the time you have to let the chestnuts roast.
In the oven the temperature will be decisive and as you know the temperature shown by the oven is not always the actual temperature inside. For this reason, you should bear in mind that although in the recipe you have a baking temperature (200ºC / 400ºF), you may have to add or lower a few degrees in your oven to be able to cook the chestnuts in 30 minutes.
In any of these three methods, if once finished the recommended cooking time, you see that the chestnuts are still not soft, you can always leave them a little longer and for the next time you know that you will have to raise the temperature a little more.
HOW TO ROAST CHESTNUTS IN OVEN
- a pinch of coarse salt
- Turn the oven on and set to 200ºC / 400ºF on upper and lower heat.
- Make a cut in each chestnut from side to side making sure to cut the skin well (read above how to do it).
- Put them on a baking tray and if you like, pour some coarse salt on top (I love them this way).
- Place the tray in the oven and bake the chestnuts for 30 minutes.
- After this time take the tray out of the oven and…leave the kitchen and let’s eat!!
- In this recipe, I use normal chestnuts (also called sweet chestnuts or Spanish chestnuts). Don’t get confused with other types of chestnuts such as horse or water chestnuts.
- To eat the chestnuts after roasting you just have to let them cool a bit, just enough to not burn yourself and to be able to remove the hard outer shell. Then remove the skin covering the chestnut, which is usually quite bitter and once done you can eat them still warm.