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I would like to make my own puree and would like to know of any ways that might be recommended for cooking them first. I tried the oven once and they started exploding: Ideas?

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Over an open fire? ;-) – Jarrod Dixon Aug 20 '10 at 2:13
Roasting on an open fire - right around the corner, buddy :>) – AttilaNYC Aug 20 '10 at 2:36
I hope you got video of the exploding chestnuts! – Neil Fein Aug 20 '10 at 2:41
Neil: Nope, but it did scare the heck out of me - sounds like a gun shot!! – AttilaNYC Aug 20 '10 at 2:56
Yes it does sound like a shot. Darn it, my oven was clean. Was. – JustRightMenus Oct 16 '10 at 1:56

If you are going to cook chestnuts, you need to score them first. Most commonly, they're scored in an X pattern -- try to do it on the side away from the flattest side. Make sure you cut all the way through the shell. Then as they cook, the shell will actually peel back slightly as they cook. Here's a link with pictures about baking them. (425 degrees until they're done, 20 to 30 minutes.)

For certain recipes, you can also boil them. According to this website, you can boil them for about 3 minutes and then peel them. You then will need to finish cooking them in your recipe. Or you can boil them in the shell for 15-20 minutes. This will lead to them falling apart -- which may be appropriate for a chestnut puree.

Still another method I found is to cook them in oil, as described here. Cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring constantly.

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Great Answer, Martha! – AttilaNYC Aug 20 '10 at 2:37
In my experience you just can get away with a single deepish score across the chestnut (as you say) on the bulbous (less flat) side of the chestnut. Also expect a few 'dead' chestnuts sometimes. – tonylo Aug 20 '10 at 4:10
I was just told that if you nick them slightly at the top and soak for a few hours prior to boiling, this will help... – AttilaNYC Aug 22 '10 at 2:55
I also score them with a single cut over the top. – BaffledCook Nov 11 '10 at 21:52
Glad it worked! Now I just need you to invite me over for some chestnuts! ;-) – Martha F. Nov 29 '10 at 21:40

You can do them in the oven, in a skillet on an open fire, etc. The secret is properly slitting the shell so that is does not explode. They have moisture inside and will pop/explode like popcorn if you don't slit the shell.

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The scoring is a pain if you're doing a few dozen, but if you don't, you will get the resultant chestut shrapnal everywhere. And after you pull it out of the oven, they'll continue to explode from carry-over cooking. (luckily, I was wearing my glasses at the time). – Joe Aug 20 '10 at 2:54
@Joe A cook wearing glasses being attacked by exploding chesnuts... It's a good thing you made survived; it would have been a pity to have the tombstone read: But for the carry-over cooking, he would have made it. – Ocaasi Aug 20 '10 at 3:44
You can actually buy [knives][1] specifically for scoring chestnuts. They've got short, curved [blades][2] and are meant to make it easier. I've never tried one, since I have enough specialized tools in my kitchen already and I only make chestnuts once or twice a year. [1]: [2]: – Martha F. Aug 20 '10 at 12:43

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