How To Peel A Chestnut Step By Step
Since I have been buying fresh chestnuts by the bag full lately, I have been trying out every method I could find to peel them so I could use them in my recipes. One afternoon I actually took an hour or two and tried a few different methods I found on the internet to peel chestnuts to find the one that worked the best. Yes I know, perhaps my chestnut obsession is getting a little out of control, but just remember, my efforts are your gain! After trying the traditional method of cutting an X into the flat side of each chestnut and then boiling or roasting them, I did find a method that made peeling both the outer hard shell of the chestnut as well as the inner skin or pellicle much easier.
By cutting an X through the flat bottom of the chestnut where the inner skin is attached and toughest to remove I found both layers on the chestnut come off quite easily without much fuss. If you find the inner skin a bit sticky, simply drop that chestnut into the hot water for another minute or two. This method only requires boiling the chestnuts for 7 or 8 minutes, so once peeled they are not already half cooked. I have put a step by step guide together to help you understand exactly what I mean. Don’t look at my nails please, after peeling too many chestnuts I am in dire need of an emergency manicure!
This is the area at the bottom of the chestnut that you need to cut.
Use a sharp knife and cut an X into the bottom of each chestnut while you get a pot of water boiling.
Warning – Do not cut the chestnut while holding it like this or you may cut yourself!
This is what the chestnut should look like after you have cut your X. Place the chestnuts in the boiling water for 7 to 8 minutes.
Remove just a few chestnuts at a time from the water and use your fingers to pull off first the outer shell, then the inner skin. If the skin is sticking, either use a sharp paring knife to help remove it, or simply drop it back in the water for a minute or two.
Pull off all of both the outer shell and inner skin.
This is a chestnut minus the outer shell with just the inner, fuzzy skin left on. I had the return this one to the hot water to remove the inner skin or pellicle.
Here are two perfectly cleaned chestnuts. Once cleaned, cut away any
darkened areas and discard any dark colored chestnuts.
Peeled and ready for using in my Roasted Brussel Sprout recipe!
Deborah Mele 2011
Being of italian ethnicity, chestnuts were a staple in our home in the
Fall in New England. This Christmas my daughter and I will be in Italy. This is the first time I will be there at Christmastime, so I am looking forward to eating roasted chestnuts. Certainly they will be much fresher than what we get here in the states. By the time we get them, we are lucky with some, to even be able to peel them. I am anxious to try your method, and will shortly, as they are now appearing in our stores.. Buon Natale….
Enjoy your trip to Italy, it is wonderful at Christmas time!
My family loves roasted chestnuts. I have tried everything under the sun to get them to peel easily after roasting but have not succeeded. Any ideas would be welcomed.
Put the chestnut on a board, flatter side down, and cut across the top, not all the way through but make sure you go through the inner skin too. Then put them under a grill, cut side up. Grill until very dark brown, almost burnt, then turn them over and do the same again. Once cooked the best way to peel them is by gently crushing them with your fingers. They will probably be very hot and burning your fingers but it’s worth it.
I forgot to say that crushing them releases the inner and outer skin, making it easier to peel
Thank you. I shall give this a go.
I saw chestnuts at the markets (here in Queensland, Australia) and bought them on a whim. I had lovely images of roast chestnuts beside a log wood fire. Of course I don’t have a fire place, it’s subtropical here so I decided I would have to cook them somehow. I will try the x method.
I am surprised that you would cut the chestnuts against such a beautifully grained wood though. Is that some kind of cutting board or a piece of furniture?
Bercita, it is an olive wood cutting board from here in Umbria. I have a bunch of them, some I use daily, others I save for display.
I just bought and roasted my first chesnuts ever. The package had directions for roasting which was to cut an X then place in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. I followed the directions then allowed the nuts to cool before peeling. None of the nuts came out easily and I did not get a single whole one. As I was peeling/ breaking them I noticed that the very center meat had a very light purplish brown hue. Are the nuts spoiled? I tried a piece of one and it tasted ok. It was slightly soft and to me maybe a little mealy (like an apple before ithe spoils). I have never eaten chesnuts before and do not know what they should taste like or what the texture should be like. Do you think my chesnuts are safe to eat? Thank you for yòui advice.
Tracy, I have found if I overcook the chestnuts and they dry out too much that they are very difficult to remove from the shell.
I want whole chestnuts to use in a traditional stuffing, and their appearance is pretty important. So if the skin won’t peel cleanly off the chestnut (and this is mostly the case with 90% of the ones I buy, no matter what method I follow: roasting, boiling, steaming, combination, etc.) I use a microplane to grate off the skin.
These “grated” chestnuts look more like baby potatoes, but they’re whole and attractive enough, and it saves me some aggravation. Also, micro planing wastes no more meat than peeling, which ends up cutting into the chestnut meat, anyway. This works well with whole chestnuts, but not halves, which I find cannot withstand the stresses of grating.
Thanks for the tip!
After a dispiriting and frustrating afternoon crumbling roasted chestnuts into mush, I discovered your method and it worked brilliantly! The hotter the chestnut, the easier. Thank you so much for your time and efforts in trialling. My foraged chestnuts look creamy and plump and beautiful.
Michelle, glad I could help!
Did you know peeled chestnuts are sold in Spain at the grocery in the freezer. Wish it was in the grocery store in the USA.
You can buy peeled chestnuts at some stores in the US.
My family has had Chestnut Stuffing for generations. For generations we have been X-ing them on the pointed end! Our fingers are so mangled by the time we are done. I am so excited to try it this way today!
Love you Debra, you just saved me. I spent 10.99 a pound on two pounds of chestnuts (you are not the only one with a chestnut obsession!) and am going to put the whole batch in boiling water. I roasted them and none, not one of the skins came off easily like they usually do. Weird year for chestnuts???Who knows? Maybe you! Thanks so much. I must start following you. I am an Italian American blogger, and can’t wait to read your posts! I’m sure I can learn something from you. Thanks again!
I find that you can never tell if the chestnuts you buy will peel easily or not. I still love them though, difficult or not!
I’ve been cutting the X against the whole flat side of the chestnut and it is all such hard work. I’ve never done it on the bottom. Is that easier? Also I love the taste and smell of roasted, so will roasting get the shell of food as easily as boiling? And I’ve always been told to do the chestnuts for almost 40 min—could it be my chestnuts were too dry? Sick of dealing with all of the hassle, I bought the precooked and peeled. The flavor just isn’t the same. Is there any way I can make them taste as good as freshly roasted? Like if I spritz with moisture and stick in the over for ten minutes, will it taste better?
Shana, I do not think there is any perfect method. Whatever works best for you. I am hosting Thanksgiving myself this year so I decided to take some shortcuts. Buying chestnuts already roasted and peeled for my stuffing was one of them.
Shana, I too love chestnuts. Most years when I buy a bagful, at least a couple are always moldy, but this season has been awful. Of the half dozen or so batches that I purchased, half were ENTIRELY moldy, two were half moldy, and only one was mostly fine. I finally gave up, and bought peeled and roasted packaged chestnuts. You are right – they don’t taste the same, but since all the fresh ones for sale were moldy, I had no choice. I experimented, and figured out how to improve the taste. I put them in an oven safe dish, drizzle a fair amount of olive oil on top, give them a good stir, and put them in the oven. I set the oven at 425 degrees on the convection setting. I like mine crispy, so I leave them in for half an hour, stirring them at least once during cooking. You should check them after 10 minutes, and figure out if you want them to keep cooking, or if they are as done as you want them. By doing this, mine taste very close to the raw ones I used to roast. I hope this helps.
Thanks for this information! Once they’re peeled do you roast them in the oven? If so, what temperature and how long? Thanks
You can roast them, boil them, or fry them depending on how you want to use them.
I might be able to add something here. Long story short, I had 1/2 my stomach removed 4 yrs ago and totally lost my appetite (best weight loss program ever!). However the one thing I still loved was Chestnuts. Problem was fresh ones are only available at Christmas time in UK, and vacuum packed ones really don’t cut it for texture or flavour. Anyway I slung an unpeeled and uncooked net of them in the freezer as an experiment. 3 months later they were still perfect. I now keep a whole freezer permanently full.
The quality very much depends on the supplier. Mine come from an organic Italian family business but the smaller ones from the supermarket can be ok too. Simply sniff the net and if they are bad you’ll smell it’s off immediately. Alternatively split a couple open and if there’s any sign of blackening, go elsewhere. Italian/French nuts are best (I’ve never seen American offered), but Chinese nuts are aweful. It’s near impossible to get the inner skin (we call it felt) off.
Anyway, x slash the skin, put them in sealed plastic bags and freeze. Alternatively you can slash the frozen skin but the nuts are more slippery to hold, still as the knife can’t go into the meat the final cooked finish is improved.
Preheat oven/grill to 200C with a baking tray. When hot,
Undefrosted, stick your nuts (no not those nuts 😂) in the oven for 15mins, then turn on the overhead grill for 5 mins. Because they’re frozen the nuts remain hydrated in the meat, while the shell/felt dry out, go crisp and fall away with no more than a quick rub. The grilling also slightly’ charcoals’ the nut adding flavour.
I buy my chestnuts from Vriezema Chestnut Farm here in West Michigan (Byron Center) and they are always fresh and large and beautiful. Mrs. Vriezema has a nine year old by the name of Tyler who is as beautiful as the chestnuts he helps harvest. I boiled the last batch and found peeling much easier, then I roasted them for about 25 minutes at 375F with butter and a little salt. Being so fresh helped a lot and they were delicious just snacking on them like boiled peanuts or postachios. And for extra delicious sweet baked goods chestnut flour is great with a unique taste.
I found cutting the X a sure way to ensure a trip to Emerg for stitches. Instead just cut on vertical cut on the bottom and gave the blade a twist to open up further.
I found peeling after boil easiest if I cut each into quarters and went from there.
I expect that the fresher the nut the easier it is so mine were grocery store bought and I am sure not as fresh as I would have liked.
Hi Deborah – At a Thanksgiving dinner that was hosted by an old family friend, I had my first chestnut stuffing. We live in South Florida so chestnuts were not our normal fare. I was 21, my wife and I were college students. The following year we hosted Thanksgiving and served chestnut stuffing, which was outstanding. My wife has always been an exceptional chef. That was 56 years ago. To cut to the “chase” after we jointly prepared and hosted our first Thanksgiving dinner: thereafter if I wanted chestnut stuffing chestnut preparation was assigned to me. Chestnut stuffing is a tradition at our Thanksgiving dinner. Sometimes requiring 5 to 10 pounds of chestnuts (a chestnut in every bite). I have labored every year thereafter to prepare chestnuts, trying every imaginable peeling method known to man. For the 2019 Thanksgiving chestnut preparation I cut the X in the bottom, VIOLA!!! It works better than any other method I had tried! I have experimented and have several suggestions; 1). purchase the chestnut at their first availability at the supermarket, 2). prepare immediate (limits loss due to mold, etc., 3). use leather gloves, cutting board and a very sharp paring knife, 4). step #1- cut the X in all of the chestnuts before cooking, 5). Step #2 – Place 12 chestnuts into a pot of room temperature water and soak for 15 minutes, keep the pot stocked as they are removed, 6). – Step #3 -prepare 4 covered pots of boiling water and drop 3 soaked chestnuts into boiling cooking pot #1, 7). Step #4 – boil for 3 minutes, when the hull begins to separate, remove the chestnut and place onto cutting board, hold with a paper towel and try to remove hull and skin (membrane) with knife and fingers, if too tight replace into pot #1 and remove and try second and third chestnuts, this is trial and error but all should peel within 4 to 5 minutes total time, (HOT chestnut peel better than cool ones), 7). at the 3 minute mark drop 3 soaked chestnuts into cooking pot #2, 8). freeze the peeled chestnuts, 9). I use pot #3 to reheat chestnuts that have sticky membrane.
Change the water as it will become discolored, pot #4 becomes a cooking pot and the discolored pot is cleaned and set to boil again.
I do establish a rhythm, however it is a labor of love!
This time of year, my husband brings back loads of fresh chestnuts from the forest nearby, gathered while walking the dog. Again and again, I have tried to peel them but inevitably they become a crumbly mess and I get so frustrated. Do they get crumbly because I boil them for too long? Could it be a variety of chestnut that is particularly crumbly? Are they too fresh?
Any hints would be very welcome, I so want to finally be able to just do this. Thank you.
Sounds like they are old rather than too fresh.
Deborah, they are still glistening from freshness……. :-). But I believe I am on my way to the answer now. I have noticed when I tackled yesterday’s batch, that I can actually peel them quite easily without boiling at all, after making a cross in the top. Now all I need to do is roast them, figure out for how long, and see whether they keep shape. I’m getting closer!
When cooked, the shells will burst open, and the chestnut will be golden brown. Roast until the shells begin to peel back where you cut into them.