A few weeks ago Blondell asked the Kitchen Shrink how to open a fresh coconut and, with the spring holidays just around the corner, this seems like the perfect time to share my favorite method for this tricky procedure.
I have tried lots of different ways of cracking a coconut but the one published in Gourmet always seems to be the easiest. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Thoroughly rinse and dry the coconut. With a metal skewer, ice pick, or clean screwdriver, poke a hole in the softest eye of the coconut. If possible, poke a hole in another eye of the coconut because that will make the coconut water drain more efficiently. Invert the coconut over a glass measuring cup and let it drain. Taste the coconut water; if there is any off flavor, the coconut is not good and should be discarded. Place the coconut in a rimmed baking pan and bake 15 minutes. The shell will probably crack in the oven. If not, crack it with a hammer and separate the pieces. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then pry the coconut away from the shell and peel off the brown skin with a vegetable peeler. Shred the coconut pieces with a microplane or a grater. You can also use a food processor but you are likely to get some little chunks among the shreds. Use the coconut in any recipe calling for unsweetened coconut or pack it in a freezer container and freeze for up to 3 months.