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As anyone who enjoys roasting chestnuts knows, precautions have to be taken to release the pressure within the shell in order to get the best flavor from the roasted nuts. This is where the concept of the chestnut cutter comes into play.
Along with a chestnut roaster, the chestnut cutter is an essential tool when chestnuts are favorites around the house. Based on a the same premise as the garlic press, the typical chestnut cutter is a tool with three handles and a chamber that is meant to hold the chestnut in place. The lower handle is attached to chamber, while a middle handle drops down over the chamber where the chestnuts are placed. While gripping those two handles with one hand, the third or upper handle is used to lower a blade to the shell of the chestnut.
The purpose of the blade is to score the shell of the chestnut, so that steam and liquid can escape during the roasting process. In times past, it was necessary to score chestnuts by hand before beginning to roast them, which was quite a laborious task. The use of the chestnut cutter speeds up that process a great deal. As each chestnut is scored, it can drop into the holding container, then transferred to the roaster once the container is full.
There is a very good reason why a chestnut cutter is needed to score the chestnuts. Because a lot of pressure can built up in the shell during roasting, there is a chance that the chestnuts can explode, causing hot liquid and shards of shells to fly in every direction. The scoring action of the chestnut cutter provides a means for the steam and liquid to escape during the roasting process, preventing any chance of explosions. The result is plenty of perfectly roasted chestnuts, with no burns and no large mess to clean up afterwards.
Chestnut cutters are made of stainless steel components, which makes them dishwasher safe. While chestnut cutters are not usually found in supermarkets, they can be purchased in specialty kitchen shops, many stores that cater to cooking, and even in some sporting goods stores that carry camping gear for cooking. A good quality chestnut cutter will last for years, requiring nothing more than routine care of the scoring blade and general cleanup after use.
Most chestnut cutters can be obtained for a reasonable price, although there are some models that boast additional features that will drive the price up somewhat. While the extras may be worthwhile for some people, the basic chestnut cutter with its three handles is usually all that is needed to get the job done properly.
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