How to Roast Chestnuts on a Fire

Learn how to roast chestnuts over an open fire at home in this PIATTO™ guide! You’ll need…

  • a fireplace or firepit
  • a tripod or other tool for propping the pan over the flame
  • a pan with holes (with or without a lid)
Chestnuts, roasted to perfection!

Watch our Video Guide!

A video is the easiest way to learn the secrets to roasting chestnuts. We cover all 3 ways of roasting chestnuts in our video guide (below)! You’ll also learn how to…

  • Choose chestnuts —What are the characteristics of a healthy chestnut? How do you tell a bad chestnut from a good one?
  • Prepare chestnuts for roasting—How to peel chestnuts easily by using simple kitchen scissors to score them — here Victorinox scissors!
  • Pre-soak the chestnuts to make peeling them easier after roasting.
  • and of course… How to roast chestnuts on an open fire!

To learn how to roast chestnuts in other ways (oven, pan), check out our other article!

Or, specifically learn the secrets to roasting chestnuts in an oven!

Filmed in Italy! Our definitive guide to roasting chestnuts in an oven, in a pan and on the fire!

Selecting Chestnuts

When buying chestnuts in the supermarket, look for chestnuts that…

  • are firm to the touch
  • have a bit of a shine
  • are free of blemishes, cracks or holes

Blemishes, cracks and holes can be signs of worms or insects. Better to avoid surprises!

In Italy, the chestnuts most prized for roasting are marroni chestnuts. These chestnuts are larger than other varieties of chestnuts and have a sweeter, tastier fruit. They are abundant in Italy and often found in groceries abroad as well.

How to Prepare Chestnuts for Roasting

It will be tempting to skip the steps below, but we don’t recommend it! Many people fail at roasting chestnuts because they don’t follow the tips below. At best, the chestnut might be roasted but extremely hard to peel. At worst? The chestnuts might start to explode! A messy business that is totally avoidable.

Score the Chestnuts

Chestnuts are highly likely to explode during the roast if you don’t score them first. To score chestnuts, set the chestnut on its flat side on a work surface. Score the top with an ‘x’ or better yet make one score laterally across the top of the chestnut.

When scoring, pierce just the skin and not the nut itself. After the nuts soak in the next step, the skin will be more flexible. At that time, you can give each nut a vertical squeeze to see if you need to score a bit deeper to cut through the skin.

Many people use a simple pairing knife to score chestnuts, but we don’t recommend it. Honestly using a knife is unsafe and awkward—although there are special

Instead, we recommend scoring with kitchen scissors. Here’s a look at the Victorinox kitchen scissors [affiliate link] that we use for the job.

Our kitchen scissors, used to score chestnut for roasting.

There are some other types of tools for scoring chestnuts to consider [affiliate links below]. These include a score press and a traditional curved chestnuts scoring knife. We’ve not used these tools, but they do look interesting! In general, we prefer multi-use tools and doesn’t everyone need a sturdy pair of kitchen scissors?

Soak the Chestnuts

After scoring, soak the chestnuts in filtered water or wine for 2 hours. The soak will soften the skin and make the chestnuts easier to peel after roasting them. After soaking for 2 hours, towel dry the nuts. Then, we’re ready to roast!

How to Roast Chestnuts on an Open Fire

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire!

There’s a reason we sing about chestnuts roasting on an open fire during the holidays! Fire-roasted chestnuts have a lovely fragrance and a flavor that is unmatched.  Of course, an open fire is required. We use our indoor fireplace to do the job.

Recommended Tools

Tripod or Propping Tool

When roasting chestnuts over a fire, you’ll need to position the pan 10 to 15 inches from the wood logs generating the fire. This gives us enough space for the logs and  enough height for the flames to gently wrap our chestnut pan. Check out the video embedded at the top of this guide to see it in action!

Pan with Holes

When roasting chestnuts over fire, we use an enclosed chestnut pan [affiliate link] similar to the one we are sharing a link for.

Is an enclosed chestnut pan necessary?

You can use a chestnut pan with holes as with an open top if you prefer. If you use this type of pan over the fire, just shake the pan and do not flip it—obviously!

After the two-hour soak, add the chestnuts to the pan.

Here there  is no need to position the chestnuts cut-side up in the pan as we will be flipping them upside down and shaking  them vigorously every two to three minutes. That’s why we are using an enclosed pan! We do want just a single layer of chestnuts though. 

It normally takes only 10 to 15 minutes to roast the chestnuts to perfection! The skins will be charred and the meat tender.

When the roasting is finished, transfer the nuts to a bowl. Then, cover the nuts with a towel and press down on the towel with your palms to loosen the skins of the chestnuts. This will make them easier to peel. Let the chestnuts rest about 15 minutes before peeling. Buon appetito!

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How to Roast Chestnuts on an Open Fire

Learn how to roast chestnuts on an open fire—to perfection!
Prep Time2 hours 15 minutes
Active Time40 minutes
Total Time2 hours 55 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: Italian, Mediterranean
Diet: Gluten Free
Keyword: healthy
Yield: 20 chestnuts


  • Scoring Tools: Kitchen Scissors, Paring Knife or Specialty Tool
  • Pan with Holes


Score the Chestnuts

  • Score the skin of the chestnuts. Score with an 'X' or laterally from one side each chestnut to the other.
    Pierce just the skin and not the nut meat. Use kitchen scissors, paring knife or chestnut scoring knife or tool for this job.

Soak the Chestnuts

  • Soak the scored chestnuts in a bowl of filtered water or wine for 2 hours.

Dry the Chestnuts

  • Towel dry the chestnuts after the soak.

How to Roast Chestnuts on an Open Fire

  • Place a fire tripod or similar prop 10 to 15 inches from the logs producing your fire.
  • Place chestnuts in a single layer in a pan with holes (preferably a chestnut roasting pan.
  • Place the pan on the tripod. Let the nuts cook for 10 to 15 over the fire! The skins will be charred and the meat tender.
  • Every 2-3 minutes, shake the nuts in the pan vigorously before returning to the fire. Turn the pan upside down after shaking if your pan is enclosed.

Let Chestnuts Rest

  • Transfer the chestnuts to a bowl and cover with a towel. Use the palms of your hands to gently press to loosen the nut skins.
    Let the chestnuts rest covered for 15 minutes. Peel the skins and enjoy!


About the author

Classic recipes from Italy and beyond. Traditional Italian Cooking and Mediterranean Diet recipes!

PIATTO™ Recipes bring traditional Italian food recipes to your table with our tested, step-by-step recipes and videos. You'll find the best Italian recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. Always tested, always delicious.

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