How to Remove Coconut Meat Without Losing Your Mind

One of the highlights of our visit to Maui last November was a tropical plantation tour. We learned about so many of the delicious fruits and flowers grown on the island; seeing pineapples, mangoes, avocados, bananas, and many others in their natural habitat was fascinating and we enjoyed the afternoon tremendously.

One mind-blowing moment came when our tour guide pulled the tram over so she could demonstrate how to break down a coconut. By the way, I absolutely love coconut but I do not love all of the steps involved in breaking them down. I can gleefully poke a skewer into the eyes and pour out the water, and vigorously hammer the indentation around the center of it until the coconut pops open into two halves. Once I start trying to get the meat out with a sharp knife, however, my good mood is gone. It is a frustrating task fraught with danger, as anything that involves a knife and a stubborn subject is. I scrape for what seems like forever, dodging injury all the way, and end up with a bowl full of pitiful-looking bits of coconut meat, swearing I’ll never do this again. (Most of us aren’t islanders with mad knife skills.)

That sunny day in Maui, though, I learned something that rocked my world. Our tour guide broke down that coconut until it was in two halves, and then she said, “One tip for coconuts that you buy on the mainland in the grocery store: freeze the halves overnight. It will help the meat separate from the shell.”

WHAT? Could that be true??

I finally tried it yesterday and yes indeed, it is true! I froze the coconut halves in a large Ziploc bag for about twelve hours. When I was ready to go I pulled them out of the freezer and left them on the counter for about 45 minutes. Then I took a butter knife and easily slid it in between the meat and the shell, pulling out satisfyingly-sized chunks of coconut meat, happily humming to myself as I went. Clearing the two halves only took about ten minutes, and then all I had to do was shave off the thin brown skin from the meat. I did it with the butter knife but next time I’m going to try a vegetable peeler, which I didn’t think of yesterday, in the moment.

This knowledge is a life changer for me and, as I discovered when I posted it on Facebook yesterday, there are lots of people who also had no idea about it. This post officially serves as a Public Service Announcement and apparently the second in a series I have inadvertently created about how to break down and remove the insides from fruits: you can find my pomegranate smacking advice here. Next up? I have no idea…but stay tuned!

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