Have you ever come across one of these in the grocery store, thought about getting it but then became intimidated at the thought of how to crack open and use a whole coconut? So you just kept walking?
No need to be intimidated any longer. I'm going to walk you through seven easy steps so there's no more fear when it comes to how to crack open and use a whole coconut.
But first, you may be wondering why you'd put yourself through this process when you can just buy a package of the dried and already shredded stuff. First reason: Doing it this way is SO much cheaper. A coconut will cost you under $2.00. Second reason: Fresh coconut will add a little extra moisture to your baking. Third reason: Fresh always tastes best, right?
How to Crack Open and Use a Whole Coconut
1. When choosing your coconut at the grocery store, be sure to shake it. You want to hear a good amount of liquid shaking around inside. If you hear nothing, put it back and choose another one.
2. Once you get home, if the coconut is wrapped in plastic, remove the plastic. I've learned the hard way that if you leave the plastic on and don't use it quickly enough, it will get moldy and you'll have to toss it. Apparently, coconuts need to "breathe."
3. To crack the coconut open, you will need to have a few things. You will need a bowl, a tea towel, and a concrete surface. This is my way of doing it and the way I was taught. There are more sophisticated ways to do it that involve plastic bags, screwdrivers, chisels, and/or hammers. No need for any of those things if you do it this way.
Wrap the coconut in the tea towel leaving a good amount of the towel for you to use as a "handle." Smash the coconut on the hard surface (I usually head down to my unfinished basement floor to do this, you can also do it outside). Once you've made the first crack, remove the coconut from the tea towel and collect the coconut water in the bowl.
Once all of the water has drained out, wrap the coconut in the tea towel again and continue hitting it on the ground until it has broken into a few pieces:
4. Using a blunt knife (I use a butter knife), CAREFULLY run the tip of it between the shell and the coconut so it separates from the shell. Repeat with all pieces.
I have read that if you refrigerate the pieces overnight that it will make separating the coconut from the shells easier. I have also seen methods that involve drying the coconut pieces out in the oven to make it easy. I have not tried either of these methods, but if you do, let me know how it goes.
5. If you will be using the coconut for a recipe like a fancy cake and you don't want the skin to make your cake "speckled," you can peel the skin off with a knife. I chose to keep it on this time because I don't have any fancy recipes planned for this batch.
6. If you have a food processor with a shredding blade, this step will be a whole lot easier. Just run the coconut pieces through your food processor with the shred blade installed.
If you don't have a food processor with a shredding blade attachment, then you will have to grate by hand using one of these sides of your box grater:
Again, be VERY CAREFUL, especially if you're using the surface on the left (that's the one I use). It will take a while to grate through everything, but you will eventually get there!
7. Depending on how large your coconut was, the amount you end up with will vary. I came out with 2.5 cups of shredded coconut with this batch.
You will likely not use all the shredded coconut at once. It will only last in the fridge a few days, so I usually package what I will not be using right away and freeze it. I freeze in ½ cup portions depending on how much coconut my go-to recipes call for. I use it up pretty quickly, so I'm not sure how long it will last in the freezer, I would guesstimate a couple months.
So now that you know how to crack open and use a whole coconut and you have fresh, shredded coconut all ready to be used, here are some coconut-containing recipes for you to try: