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Most instruction on cooking chestnuts (I'm going to boil them specifically) tell you to score them with an X. I know this is so the steam from the inside has somewhere to escape.

If I'm fine with just having halves/quarters of flesh, is there a reason why I shouldn't just cut through them entirely? Seems like it'd be less persnickety to do, especially with a sharp chef's knife designed for chopping/slicing in the first place. (I have a pound and a half to process and scoring is a silly amount of work.)

  • You will lose a lot of flavor if you boil chestnuts. Is there a particular reason you are not baking/roasting them? – Airport Chariot Car and Limo Nov 17 '18 at 4:17
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I've only ever roasted them, and there, you do want to score them at least enough to create a weak spot, since heat above boiling temperatures will come into play and they will burst. In roasting them, I think they'd be more prone to drying out if halved first.

A small serrated knife is a better choice than a big chef's knife for that task, in my experience. The score does not have to be all the way through, either.

I would think that halving them before boiling would tend to leach flavor (making "chestnut tea" from the boiling water) and that would reduce the flavor left in the nut.

I'd also think that if boiling them, scoring beforehand might not be needed, as I can't imagine them managing to steam to the point of exploding in a boiling water bath. But I would probably try it with one nut, just in case I was wrong, before loading up a pot-full.

Mostly I'd be happier if the darn things were less prone to be moldy, which is really disappointing.

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    When I saw the question, I googled for recipes specifically for boiling, and many did not mention scoring. Recipes for roasting, on the other hand, seem to always mention scoring, sometimes the X, sometimes just a single long slit. So it does seem probable that it's unnecessary or at least less necessary. – Cascabel Oct 10 '17 at 1:38
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    I hoped to not have to heat up the oven but tbh it ended up just as much work because it’s harder to get rid of the inner peel when boiled, go figure. (Cutting through neither helped nor made things worse there.) The flavour loss is there, but if it’s in just enough water to cover it’s not too bad, and it’s easier to season them. It did make it easier to get rid of the duds though. Dryness isn’t an issue for this batch, they’re going into a pumpkin soup. I might try toasting the leftover halves in a pan to see if I can improve flavour and get rid of the peel though. – millimoose Oct 10 '17 at 1:40
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    I use the edge of a file to score. It's safer than a knife. – Optionparty Oct 10 '17 at 18:27
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When roasted a chestnut steams inside its shell, cutting a slit allows enough steam to escape while trapping enough to cook the chestnut inside. If you cut the chestnuts into pieces the steam will all escape and you will have to cook them longer, and the result will be hard and dry.

You can see the same thing at work with a potato, if you cut a potato in half and bake it you'll find it takes longer to cook, and the result is quite hard instead of being soft and fluffy.

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    And if you don't cut them at all, you end up with exploding chestnuts (and they continue to explode from carry-over when you remove it from the oven ... luckily, I wear glasses) – Joe Oct 11 '17 at 3:06
  • True, I've had ones where I didn't score them enough and they do go boom. – GdD Oct 11 '17 at 7:00
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If boiling a chestnut, you do not need to score them. They will not explode in water like they do during the baking/roasting process. There is no need to cut them in half unless you want flavorless mush. You will lose a lot of flavor by boiling them as it is.

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