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How to [safely] Open a Coconut


Who'd thunk Julia Childs, a master of French cooking, would be the one to teach this island girl how to properly—and safely—extract meat from a coconut? 

I love fresh coconut milk and for years have husked the puppies, cracked them open, and then painstakingly pried the flesh from the shell with rather sharp, and dangerous, instruments. So much work, and I won't even mention the number of times I've nearly severed three fingers in the process.

Leafing through one of Julia's cookbooks in my Tutu's kitchen I stumbled across instructions for doing it a better way—here's how it's done:

Pick out a fresh and healthy mature husked coconut. Give that coconut a good shake in the store. You should hear coconut water slosh around inside. If you don't, it's a bad one. Also, check the three eyes of the coconut. They should not be punctured and there should be no signs of mold. If there is, it's a bad one.

Preheat your oven to 400˚F.

Pierce the three eyes using a phillips head screwdriver (safer than an ice pick and who has ice picks these days anyway?) and a hammer.

Drain the coconut water through the eye holes into a cup and enjoy or refrigerate for later use.

Bake the coconut whole for 20 minutes or until a few small cracks appear on the surface of the shell. Let cool.

Wrap the coconut in a kitchen towel and give it a few whacks on a hard surface (like a sidewalk) or give it a few taps with a hammer.

Scoop/pry coconut flesh out with a spoon.

Voila, fresh coconut meat for snacking on or blending into thick, rich coconut milk (recipe here)—and with all fingers still intact. Thank you Julia!

Do you have a favorite way open and get the meat out of a coconut? I would love to hear your tips!

Reader Comments (7)

I can't remember who taught me how to crack a coconut but it was probably Julia because after several failed attempts a few years ago I started searching and now do it this way, too. Thank you Julia.

October 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLaurel

Laurel, oh good. Glad to know someone else uses this technique! xoLexie

October 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLexie

I never would have thought to bake it - genius! Just like squash.

October 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlisa @ Go Dairy Free

Julia had an answer for everything! Her method certainly makes more sense. ;-) The last time we opened a coconut was in the Virgin Islands with a machete. Toting the coconut along until we could use an oven would have made more sense for sure. Thanks for sharing!


Alisa ... me thinks it is genius, too :)

October 11, 2013 | Registered CommenterLexie

Shirley, Julia has captivated me since childhood. Yes, you tote that coconut all over the island next time :) ha!

October 11, 2013 | Registered CommenterLexie

Gorgeous photos Lexie. I am guessing a machete is not considered a "safe way" :) This way sounds so much easier!

October 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

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