There is, of course, more than one way to open a coconut. But some methods are safer than others. One method involves heating the coconut in the oven for 15 minutes, so that it develops fault lines. This, of course, ruins the juice and you run the risk of getting scalded by the juice or it’s steam. However, if you remove the juice in advance, this method does not work well as the shell tends to break into too many pieces. Either way, you’re dealing with a hot coconut. You really do not need to heat up a coconut to crack it. You just have to be a bit patient and whack it in the right way.
These tips assume you are dealing with a mature coconut, rather than a young green one. If you live in a place where young coconuts are available, you probably don’t need these instructions as you are bound to know more about coconuts than I do.
You have the option of removing the juice in advance. In my experience, coconuts crack easier if you leave the juice in but don’t rely on this decidedly anecdotal evidence. I don’t know of any reason why this should be so, it’s just how it seems to me. If you don’t remove the juice, and you need it, you have to be careful not to lose it when you crack open the coconut.
To Remove the Juice from a Coconut
To remove the juice in advance, you’ll notice three indentations called “eyes’ on one end of the coconut. These are softer spots than the rest of the fruit and, usually, at least one of the eyes is softer then the other. You want to poke a hole in two of these eyes to be able to pour the juice out easily. Use a Philips head screwdriver. You know, one that is not out of the toolbox. Do NOT use an ice pick! This is extremely dangerous and the hole it makes is too small anyway. Place the coconut on a towel and wedge it in a corner, place the working end of the screwdriver in one of the eyes, and hit the handle end with a hammer to make a hole. Making two holes allows one hole to let air in, which will make the fluid pour out much easier. If you only choose to break open the one “permeable” eye, you probably will not need a hammer but you may have to shake it to get all the juice out.
To Crack the Coconut
1. If you did not already remove the juice, have a bowl handy to pour it into at the first sign of a crack.
2. Place the coconut on a towel, or hold it in your hand. A towel is safer but if you left in the juice it is a bit easier to have the coconut in your hand, as this will allow you to save the juice faster.
3. Using the non-sharp edge of a heavy meat cleaver or heavy knife, bang the coconut about 1/3 of the way down from the end with the eyes. Don’t try to obliterate the thing, just give it a healthy bang.
4. Rotate the coconut while continuing to bang it with the edge of the cleaver or knife as if you are trying to inscribe a line around the shell.
5. Keep doing this until a crack opens up.
6. Immediately pour the coconut juice into the bowl through the open crack, hopefully without losing too much in the process.
7. Pull the two halves of the coconut apart. Sometimes you can make a “clean break” and basically separate the coconut into two halves. Other times a section of the shell will come off.
Once you have broken open your coconut and saved the water, scrape or cut the flesh off the brown skin beneath.
Alternate Heating Method
Another method, as mentioned above, of breaking open a coconut is to place it on a baking sheet and heat it in the oven at 400 degrees fahrenheit for 15 to 20 minutes. The heating will make the shell develop fault lines and allow it to be broken open more easily. However, this method makes it difficult to save the coconut water, which, even if you aren’t using it, is a refreshing drink. As well, the resulting steam could scald you as you break open the coconut.
Finding a Good Coconut
Look for a coconut with no cracks that makes a nice swishing sound when you shake it, indicating that no cracks have developed (from handling) so that no water has leaked out. Avoid coconuts with white spots, especially around the eyes, as this is mold and it tends to develop around places where the water is leaking.
Once you’ve opened a coconut, the flesh should be white, not yellow or brown. It should smell like a coconut, and not have any foul odor whatsoever.