How to Open a Coconut

It's Easier Than You Think

Coconut splitting open held in two hands
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If you've ever stared at a coconut and been baffled by how to get the goods out, don't worry—you're not alone and it's probably way easier than you think.

Draining the Coconut Juice

If you're planning on preparing your own coconut milk, which entails blending the meat with the juice and adding some water, you'll want to drain and collect all the juice before opening the coconut. Do this by poking a hole through one of the three eyes of the coconut.

Test each hole with a knife. When you find the softest of the eyes, use the knife to create a half-inch hole. Invert the coconut over a bowl to drain the juice. You can also poke a hole in the coconut eye with a screwdriver.

Although you can open the coconut directly over a bowl to catch the juice, the process can be a little messy. Use the poke-the-eye-and-drain method to reduce cleanup.

How to Open a Coconut

The rest is pretty simple. 

  1. Hold the coconut in your non-working hand.
  2.  Look for the imperfect "equator" line that runs around the middle of the coconut.
  3. Take a hammer and whack along that line with swift hard hits—keeping the fingers of the hand holding the coconut well out of the way.
  4. Turn the coconut and continue whacking the equator line until the coconut splits open. You'll probably end up turning the coconut all the way around three or four times.
  5. Use your fingers to pull the two halves apart and place them cut side down on the counter.

    You can use the blunt edge of a heavy butcher's knife instead of a hammer, but be careful not to cut yourself.

    Not all coconuts are created equal. Some are drier than others, some are heavier, some are bigger, some are smaller and some are fresher, but the method is the same, which means that some will open faster than others.

    After You Crack Open the Coconut, Then What?

    Strike the upside-down coconut halves you placed on the counter repeatedly with the hammer to help loosen the meat from the shell. Tap over the entire shell area to loosen all the meat. Don't worry if the shell breaks into smaller pieces. Slide a butter knife between the shell and the meat and pry the meat away from the shell. Repeat with each piece. 

    Caution: Use a dull butter knife and push away from your hand and body to prevent injury.

    Alternate Method for Removing the Meat

    Most people find that removing the meat from the shell is the hardest part of using fresh coconut. Here's an alternate method to try. 

    1. Wrap the coconut halves in foil.
    2. Place in a 400-degree oven for an hour.
    3. Wait for them to cool.

    The meat should come out easily after this. If you want to remove the thin brown skin from the coconut, use a vegetable peeler for this purpose using the same caution you use when peeling other vegetables.

    The Yummy Part

    What comes next is up to you. You can enjoy the coconut meat raw or blend raw coconut pieces with the drained juice and a couple cups of water and then strain the liquid through a cheesecloth to make raw coconut milk. You can shred the meat, toast it and then use it to garnish a dessert or eat it as a snack.

    Whatever you do, it'll be delicious.

    Here are some coconut recipes you might want to try: