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How to Puncture and Crack a Coconut Safely

Athlyn Green enjoys discovering innovative cooking tricks and sharing them with others.

A coconut with its super hard outer shell can be challenging to crack. Learn how to open one at home.

A coconut with its super hard outer shell can be challenging to crack. Learn how to open one at home.

How to Open a Coconut at Home

Have you ever tried to crack and open a coconut? If you have, you'll appreciate what a trial this can be.

Opening a coconut is an undertaking that is definitely not geared for the faint of heart, and if it's done improperly, it can be downright dangerous: slip with a hammer, and you've set yourself up for a whole lot of pain; slip with a cleaver and ... well, you can picture the rest.

The round shape of coconuts adds to the difficulty because they don't stay put. They roll around, and this can be an accident just waiting for a happening. Coconuts are extremely hard, as well. So you have a scenario that has "potential disaster" written all over it.

It is easy to become frustrated and impatient when trying to open a coconut, but it is always prudent to practice safe, injury-reducing tricks. This article discusses how to open a coconut safely: how to breach the hard outer shell and how to easily remove the coconut meat inside. Once one knows a few tricks, opening a coconut is not as hard as it might first appear to be.

4 Steps to Open a Coconut

  • Step #1: Safely Puncture the Coconut
  • Step #2: Safely Crack the Hard Outer Shell
  • Step #3: Safely Remove the Coconut Meat
Coconuts may have a hard shell but the eyes are the entry point.

Coconuts may have a hard shell but the eyes are the entry point.

Step #1: Safely Puncture and Drain the Coconut

Before you begin, put down a plastic bag or take your coconut outside, where dripping won't be a problem.

  1. Locate the Three Eyes on the Coconut. The eyes are the entry point. This is where you'll make a small hole in the coconut and drain it, prior to breaking the hard outer shell.
  2. Use a Blunt Object. Clean a screwdriver or a blunt nail and align it with one of the coconut eyes. Tap the handle of the screwdriver or the nail top with a hammer until you gain entry.
  3. Widen the Opening by rotating the screwdriver/nail in the opening.
  4. Place the whole thing inside a strainer to drain the liquid into a container.

Note: Coconut liquid can be used fresh or poured into ice cube trays and frozen for later use in recipes.

Coconut neatly cracked in half.

Coconut neatly cracked in half.

Step #2: Safely Crack the Hard Outer Shell

Once the liquid has been removed from the coconut, you'll now want to crack your coconut in half to get at the innards. But how do you do so safely? Once again, caution is in order.

  1. Place the coconut in a plastic zip-lock bag and seal the bag. This prevents the coconut from rolling around.
  2. Put the bag on a cutting board.
  3. Hold it firmly at one end and smack it at the middle point with a hammer. Continue working your way around the mid-point by rotating the coconut and smacking it until the outer shell cracks in half.
The coconut has been cracked and opened to reveal the creamy inner meat.

The coconut has been cracked and opened to reveal the creamy inner meat.

Coconut pieces

Coconut pieces

Step #3: Safely Remove the Coconut Meat

The coconut meat will be firmly attached to the outer shell, and once again, a little know-how goes a long way. You can easily remove the innards by taking the following steps:

  1. Place the halves on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at moderate heat, 250-250 degrees, until the innards shrink.
  2. Remove the halves from the oven and allow them to cool slightly.
  3. Use a spoon to break off the pieces from the outer shell.

Once the flesh is separated from the hull, it can now be shredded.

A Word About the Video

Now that we've discussed how to crack a coconut safely, you are better-equipped to do this injury-free. The video below reinforces the tips learned in this article and provides a visual for those who want to see how this is done, but, as mentioned here, it is far safer to place your coconut in a bag before striking it.

Coconut Is a Tasty Treat

Opening coconuts is relatively easy once you know how to puncture and crack them safely. Once opened, they offer tasty milk and that lovely meat hidden inside that can be shredded and sweetened and used to top sweet treats.

Shredded coconut

Shredded coconut

Ways to Use Coconut

Dried Coconut: If you plan on using your shredded coconut for savory dishes, such as stir fry or with chicken, lay out the flakes in a flat pan or cookie sheet and allow them to dry for at least an hour or two before storing in a container. Make sure the meat is completely dry.

Sweetened Coconut: An easy method to sweeten shredded coconut (and the flakes are better sweetened if you plan on using them in dessert recipes) is to dry them first and then store them in a container with powdered sugar.

Toasted Coconut:Toasting your shreds can be so delicious, and it's a favorite topping for donuts and other sweet treats. To toast your shredded coconut, lay it out on a cookie sheet placed inside of another cookie sheet and bake in a 300-325-degree oven until golden brown. Watch carefully and check after 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Check again to ensure that flakes don't overbrown. If necessary, reduce oven heat towards the end of baking time.

Sweet treat topped with toasted coconut

Sweet treat topped with toasted coconut

A favorite marshmallow treat: marshmallows coated with toasted coconut

A favorite marshmallow treat: marshmallows coated with toasted coconut

From Tree to Table

An advantage of extracting the meat from a coconut and making your own shredded coconut is you control what goes into it. You can forego the preservatives and control the amount of sugar. If you choose to buy a coconut and want to use the inner meat, you can do so easily and safely by using the tips in the article.

© 2011 Athlyn Green