The Reason You'll Want To Score Chestnuts Before Roasting

While it's not unheard of to munch on raw chestnuts to savor their earthy undertones, they are typically relished in their cooked form. Among the many ways to prepare them, roasting is a beloved tradition, conjuring images of bustling holiday markets and winter festivities. However, while roasting them may seem like a straightforward process there are nuances that can enhance the outcome, like scoring your chestnuts beforehand. 

In this context, scoring is the act of making a deliberate incision or cut on the outer shell of the chestnut. But why bother with this additional step? Scoring prevents the chestnuts from exploding due to steam pressure build-up within the nut when roasting. Moreover, it allows the heat to penetrate more efficiently, ensuring even cooking and lastly, it makes the peeling process post-roasting infinitely easier. While this technique may sound simple enough, you must score your chestnuts correctly to achieve these desired effects.

Correct way to score chestnuts before roasting

When using a knife to score chestnuts, safety and precision are paramount. Begin by placing the chestnut on a stable chopping board, flat side down. Select a sharp paring knife or a chestnut knife. A small serrated knife also does a good job here. Hold down one nut at a time on the board using your thumb and forefinger and carefully make a cross-cut on the rounded top. Ensure the cut penetrates just deep enough to slice through the shell without cutting the meat of the nut because that will make peeling the nut harder.

If you're apprehensive about using a knife or simply desire an alternative method, kitchen shears come to the rescue. With the scissors in your dominant hand, firmly hold down the chestnut on the chopping board using your other hand. Make a horizontal cut on the shell from the center of the rounded top towards one side then turn the nut and repeat on the other side to complete the cut. You can leave the score as one horizontal line, no need to make the crosscut. 

The last step is simply roasting the nuts as you normally would by introducing them to a heat source — traditionally, an open fire, but the modern oven works too — until the meat of the nuts transforms into tender morsels and a sweet nutty aroma feels the air. Now you're ready to enjoy your flavorful chestnuts.